Last Thursday, Thomas Napoli, chairman of the Institutional Policy Review committee (IPR) and A&S ’16, and Elinor Mitchell, vice chair of the Student Organizations Board and A&S ’15, met with Dean of Students Thomas Mogan to consider the proposed changes to the University’s student guide.
During the meeting, Mogan and the members of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) finalized how they will be moving forward with the student guide revisions this spring.
Mogan has decided to split up the revision process: one team will handle formatting and making the guide more accessible, and another team will handle more of the policy, like the free expression proposal.
They hope to start meeting biweekly around Feb. 20, said Napoli, who will be on the team handling the policy of the guide.
“I hope that any new changes will first and foremost reflect our philosophy that the Office of the Dean of Students exists to support students and to enhance their experience here at Boston College,” Mogan said in an email. “Our hope is that the changes to the Student Guide will make it easier for students to clearly read and understand the policies that are in place.”
Ideally, all of the proposed changes will be incorporated into the 2015 student handbook for the fall semester. The proposal, particularly the free expression proposal, has always been meant as a list of ideas rather than a set of specific changes, Napoli said.
I don’t really view it as getting passed or rejected and when I handed it in I certainly didn’t mean it as a take it or leave it attitude,” he said. “I think compromise is a key word for us. That is how we’re going to move this forward and create a unified free expression policy.”
The team handling the formatting has committed to making the guide easier for students to read and use. It is working on taking out unnecessary language to make the guide more precise.
“Now, when you read through the student guide it’s very hard to go through it and find what you’re looking for—not all the language is very precise,” Napoli said. “I definitely don’t want to undercut what that team is doing. They’re trying to take out the fluff and make it more of a unified vision of what the guide is going to be.”
In addition, the policy team will focus on more ambitious changes, including the free expression proposal, which changes policy relating to how registered student organizations can demonstrate and advertise. These changes will begin dialogue—the more restrictions are taken away, the more incentive students will have to express their beliefs and views, Napoli said.
“Real policy changes don’t happen overnight,” he said. “Free speech isn’t an end goal, it’s the beginning of a whole bunch of conversations.”
In these meetings, Mogan acts as a representative of the higher administration. In that role, he works on the details of what works with a Jesuit university. In addition, he has a legal counsel throughout the process, Napoli said.
“Anything that goes in the student guide needs to be airtight,” he said.
Despite this, Mogan does have concerns about some of the proposed revisions. In particular, the potential for unrecognized student groups to have some of the same rights as recognized student groups could present problems, he said.
“This concern arises from the desire to protect students from the liability that comes with being involved in unrecognized student groups,” he said.
Napoli hopes that the student guide changes will positively affect how BC students express themselves, with the aim of lessening restrictive policies and making physical changes to BC’s campus.
He hopes to make the quads more active by adding poles for posters and more tables for clubs to advertise.
“If you look at the way the quad is handled, it’s literally a diagonal path right across it and it’s kind of just splitting the place students express themselves in two,” he said.
“The trees were taken down and yes, it’s aesthetically pleasing and that’s awesome, but what about student development and having all those clubs out there promoting themselves? That’s what I’d like to see.”
Though the process to revise the student guide is moving relatively quickly, it will still take time, Napoli said.
Regardless of the changes, some students who feel that their voice is not heard will always attend protests and rallies regardless of policy, Napoli said.
“I wouldn’t discount how much of an impact that you can have,” he said. “It took two or three passionate students to start rallies that blew up the campus in conversation. I have a lot of hope for those changes to happen quickly.”
Featured Image by Emily Sadeghian / Heights Senior Staff