Every year, the Dean’s Office revises the student handbook based on feedback from students, faculty, and student groups recorded from the previous year. This year’s revisions bring significant changes to alcohol and party policies, as well as the student conduct process.
As part of the changes, the college altered its definition of a “party.” Previously, a party that had alcohol present in a registered party space had to exceed 30 students before requiring registration by Public Safety through the OSE. This year, that number dropped to 10 based on feedback from both Swat Team and Public Safety.
Dean Nathan Miller, who also serves as the director of student conduct, explained that this new definition is meant to give the college a better understanding of what events are happening on campus, how to effectively deploy Swat Team members, and how to allocate other resources.
Dean and Director for Student Engagement Rachel Head explained that this type of change is not necessarily new.
“The number of participants at an event that require a party permit have varied over the years; recent years have had numbers as low as 10 to as high as 30 participants. Students reserving space early and turning in party permits in a timely fashion is essential to the process,” Head said.
The handbook now states: “After reserving space for a social function, the student must register the function by obtaining and submitting an Alcohol Permit from the Office of Student Engagement. An Alcohol Permit is required if: a) more than ten (10) people will attend; b) there is a keg; or c) the party will be held in a registered event/party location.”
Because the definition of a party has changed, the number of registered parties will likely increase, and thus increase the burden on resources for Swat Team. Some students, though acknowledging that the rule change is a good step toward making parties safe, had some reservations about the logistics of regulating parties. Ojas Chinchwadkar ‘17, a member of Swat Team, shared his concerns.
“I remember when Swarthmore stopped serving hard alcohol at parties, many people were concerned that students would pre-game unsafely before parties. This policy change is a good step toward addressing that. However, I’m concerned that it will be difficult to implement,” he said. “People move around quite often on Thursday and Saturday nights, so it is possible that a group of four unexpectedly arrives to a ‘gathering’ of seven or eight people with alcohol, and the ‘gathering’ becomes an official ‘party.’”
Head explained, however, that the way Swat Team members are deployed addresses this issue. “The Swat Team managers and director meet with the OSE and Public Safety each week to discuss which parties require Swat Team support. Larger all-campus events and all-campus locations are prioritized for Swat Team support over smaller gatherings.” The form to register a party under these new guidelines can only be found online through the OSE.
Other changes to the handbook include the addition of Michelle D. Ray to fill the position of Case Manager & Grievance Advisor, a new position at the college. Ray’s job will be to assist in the student misconduct adjudication process and inform students of their rights.
“This position was among the many recommendations informing advances to the student conduct process,” she said. “This position will serve as an integral part of the overall student conduct process and the Title IX team to help ensure that all student conduct processes are fair and equitable.”
The position was created last year, but the duties were taken up by other staff members until the search to replace the previous Grievance Advisor was completed.
If a student finds themself in what the handbook calls the “major misconduct process,” which requires the involvement of the college judiciary committee (CJC), the student will be appointed a case manager (typically the Case Manager & Grievance Advisor) to help them navigate the procedures of a CJC hearing. Though the case manager does not affect the CJC process itself, they serve as a resource to students in navigating the process.Ray explained over email that, “at the discretion of the respondent, the Case Manager may accompany the student to any meeting/hearing related to these procedures. Additionally, the Case Manager and Grievance Advisor will offer support to any student within the student conduct process and/or education to the community related to the student conduct process.”
The last change to the handbook worth noting is a new timeline for the student conduct appeals process, though the appeals process itself, has not changed. The handbook now states that a respondent to a complainant must appeal to the dean of students or designee within 3 business days of the written outcome. Conversely, the dean must communicate the result of the appeal within 5 business days, though there is some flexibility on the dean’s end depending on the nature of the case.
Ray clarified that the timeline is a fairly minor change.
“We revise our policy every year and the revisions are based on the actual experience of students. What we realized was that the timeline for appeals in the current policy was longer than the actual time it was taking to conduct the appeals, so we adapted the timeline in the revised policy to be a more accurate reflection of what was actually happening,” Ray said.
In a September 14th meeting for faculty and students about the changes to the handbook, Dean Miller stressed that the majority of the changes in the handbook were meant to make it more user-friendly and explicit in its rules and procedures.