The University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government (USG) passed bills Wednesday night supporting student representation on Community Standards as well as adding a sustainability course to general education requirements.
The next step for both initiatives is for USG representatives to work with their respective parts of administration.
USG’s Judiciary worked on getting student representation on UConn’s Community Standards boards for the past three years, Sen. Steven Perry (Hilltop Apartments), a sponsor of the bill, said.
Community Standards evaluates students who have been accused of breaking the university’s conduct codes and decides punishments for students found responsible. The most common offenses for 2015-2016 were illegal consumption, possession, and/or proximity violating the university’s alcohol and other drugs policy, illegal drug possession and academic integrity violations such as plagiarism and cheating.
Sen. Noah O’Connor (West) also sponsored the bill and said, while students are referred to Community Standards for breaking university rules, having fellow student representation would make the process fairer.
“We want to make sure their voices are being heard, that they’re taken seriously as adults,” O’Connor said.
Andrew Stern, USG Chief Justice and co-author of the bill, said students have representation on one part of Community Standards: the Student Probation Review Committee. The committee deals with students who are on probation after being found responsible for breaking conduct codes. Stern said the earlier stages of the Community Standards process should also include students.
“In the actual decision making process, there’s no student representation,” Stern said.
Wambui Gatheru, USG Associate Justice and co-author of the bill, said students would be required to undergo training to be on the Community Standards boards.
“We understand that Community Standards is a very private, personal process. It usually involves very serious offenses against the university, so the people sitting on these boards would have extensive training,” Gatheru said.
Gatheru added that Title IX cases, typically dealing with sexual assault, would be excluded from student representation.
The USG Judiciary examined how other public universities’ versions of Community Standards operate and found that many include students on their boards. Schools like University of New Hampshire, University of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania State University all have student representation on their boards.
“At University of Virginia, their version of Community Standards is entirely students,” Stern said.
Stern added that according to Community Standards, they used to have student representation but there wasn’t enough interest from students to keep them on boards. Since then, Stern has said many students have reached out regarding representation on Community Standards.
Stern said he hopes with USG’s support and the Judiciary’s detailed proposal, Community Standards will be open to having students participate in the hearing process for students accused of breaking UConn’s codes of conduct.
The second initiative supported by USG was the addition of a sustainability course to the university’s general education requirements. Currently, the General Education Oversight Committee (GEOC) is reviewing the proposal.
Over 200 courses already in the university’s catalog could potentially fill the requirement, including courses from the english, geography, journalism and sociology departments, among several others.
Sen. Myles Gibbs (Engineering) wrote the bill seeking USG support for a sustainability gen ed.
The bill stated that the number of credits required for students to graduate would not increase, should the university decide to implement the gen ed.
“Some of the feedback I got… were concerns that we’re trying to make it harder for students to graduate and that’s absolutely not the case,” Gibbs said.
Sen. Wawa Gatheru (McMahon), sponsor of the bill, said if the gen ed is approved and implemented, it would apply to incoming students only and would not disrupt current students’ plans of study.
Gibbs also said options being considered for incorporating a sustainability course include merging it with another content area, instead of creating a new one, or allowing students to enroll in three “double-dip” classes, rather than the current limit of two.
Gibbs said he’s hoping, with USG’s support, GEOC will be more likely to follow through and add a sustainability gen ed to the curriculum.
“I think we’re introducing legislation that will change the campus for the better,” Gibbs said.
Schae Beaudoin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.