Revised Handbook Tightens RPL Requirements, Forbids Vaping in Dorms

The Dean’s Office has made its annual updates to the Student Handbook, revising hosting requirements for events with alcohol and strengthening the standards for becoming a Residential Peer Leader.

These changes include new guidelines on posters and disorderly conduct, an increase in the time to make disciplinary appeals from three to five days, and a ban on vaping within dorms.

“[Policy] reviews are done and we solicit information in a variety of different ways throughout the year,” Associate Dean of Students Nathan Miller said.

Dean Miller described a comprehensive revision process, in which the inputs of students and faculty are weighted heavily into any updates, as well as a consideration of new federal education policies.

“We’ll get feedback from them and I’ll actually meet with those student groups [such as RAs and SwatTeam],” Dean Miller said.

One major category of changes includes new regulations for parties with alcohol. Aside from officially renaming such events to AREs, or Alcohol Registered Events, the new handbook limits students to one bottle of wine or six-pack of beer each for BYOB events and requires parties with 75 or more guests to have at least three hosts.

Dean Miller cited “the challenge on SwatTeam” as a reason for that final change.

“We wanted to help support them. We thought the party hosts could help in that. That’s something we’ve always … been thinking about and reviewing,” he said.

However, comments from the Director of SwatTeam, Monie Deb ’19, call into question the Dean’s reasoning on these new party hosting rules.

“As far as I know, this will not take a load off SwatTeam,” wrote Deb in an email exchange, citing SwatTeam’s need for more paid employees to help ensure safety. Still, she added, ”Having more party hosts who want to be sober and take on responsibility seems like a powerful and obvious change that lets party goers know that their safety is a priority.”

The handbook also includes new wording on the meaning of “good standing” and introduces enhanced requirements for RPLs. Students on probationary status will not be considered in good standing. According to Dean Miller, this was always the policy of the college; the new handbook now explicitly states that being put on probation removes one from good standing.

More concrete was a new rule barring those not in good standing from becoming a RPL — a category which includes RAs, GAs, SAMs, and DPAs. The change reflects a policy demand made by Organizing for Survivors last semester. The group alleged that there were students who were on probation by the college due to Title IX offenses who had been allowed to serve as RPLs.

“That was part of the conversation,” acknowledged Dean Miller. “[It] was a decision that was made from those areas that oversee the RPLs … They felt it was important that the students in those positions were in good standing.”

Still, the policy change did not encompass the full demands of O4S.

“We also will continue pushing for the unmet demands, to which administration has shown to be more resistant,” the organization wrote in a recent Voices article.

Rounding out the major categories of updates were new policies on student dissent. The section on banners, chalking, and posters is now introduced by a brief paragraph in which the college acknowledges “the right to free expression … so far as the expression does not impinge on the rights of other members of the community or the orderly and essential operations of the college.”

The new guidelines further emphasize that the banners require the approval of the Office of Student Engagement and that banners in Sharples must be put up and taken down by students. Designated locations for posters are now given their own separate paragraph in the handbook.

“[If] we have a sense interpretation of a policy is unclear, we’re going to try to clarify that,” Dean Miller described the reasons new poster, chalking, and banner guidelines.

When asked what specifically gave the administration the sense that interpretation of the policy was unclear, Dean Miller demurred.

“I wouldn’t say it was specifically related to any one student organization or group … it could be questions, responses, indications from either students, staff, or faculty,” he explained.

Also mentioned in the email informing students of the handbook changes was a rewording of the disorderly conduct policy, which Dean Miller confirmed in his interview. However, based on the versions sent out to students, the wording of the disorderly conduct section in this year’s and last’s year’s handbook are the exactly the same.

In summary, the handbook changes clarify behavioral policies for students and restrict vaping and certain party activities. Per Dean Miller, the administration will continue to gather information about the effect of handbook changes and solicit information from student leaders come spring, as part of their continuing review process.

Featured image courtesy of Karin Nakano

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