Senior staff members convened on Friday, September 28 to revise for a second time this semester a five-year-old student trips policy requiring student clubs and organizations on campus to bring along a faculty advisor and pay for professional transportation services for trips taking place outside of a 250-mile radius from the college’s campus.The plan will be in effect on a trial basis for the next academic year.
“I think the plan is to go back to SGA with this policy and have it in place for a year, see how things go and if we need to tweak it and make more changes then we can certainly do that here throughout the year,” said Assistant General Counsel Barbara Stob, who helped draft the policy along with Associate Dean for Student Engagement Emily Perl.
President Sanford Ungar signed an earlier version of the policy into action at the start of the semester. Discussions with students during an SGA meeting attended by the Perl and Stob on Wednesday, September 19 and in outside meetings prompted additional alterations.
At the latest senior staff meeting at the end of September, President Ungar and the college’s Executive Vice Presidents Gail Edmonds, Wendy Litzke, Michael O’leary, Laurie Burton-Graham, Marc Roy, Bill Leimbach, Janet Wiley, Debbie Lupton, Tom Phizacklea, and Allie Laban-Baker, accepted three major changes in the second round of revisions to the policy implemented at the start of the academic year.
According to Executive Vice President and General Counsel Burton-Graham, the reason behind the call for the revision was “in response to student concerns.” She continued, representatives “of the clubs suggested some changes to the policy” and senior staff accepted revisions made by Perl and Stob “to still maintain our efforts to maintain liability and student safety while also putting a little more flexibility into the policy to address student concerns.”
Perl enumerated the policy changes in an email on October 2 to Student Government Association President Dashell Fittry ’13. In the previous policy, advisers were “required and no student drivers [could] drive on trips outside the Baltimore/DC region.” In the latest version, however, “we have expanded the region to be any trip within a 250-mile radius of Goucher. This expands the area quite dramatically and makes the decision-making process much more clear.”
In addition, the latest version of the policy also increases the number of individuals responsible for waiving decisions to allow students the ability to travel. Perl wrote, “Where it said that exceptions would be made at the sole discretion of the Associate Dean for Student Engagement, we are now saying the decision would be made by the Associate Dean for Student Engagement in consultation with legal counsel. This addresses the concern that some students expressed about one person being the sole decision-maker.”
Finally, a change was made in which the policy for overnight trips can now be waived when it stated previously, “any overnight trips outside of the Baltimore/DC region must utilize planes, trains, busses or other vehicles driven by professional drivers.” In addition to the new 250-mile radius exemption, Perl wrote, “We have added language to this part of the policy stating that here, too, [there are] exceptions.”
Stob noted that the most recently revised policy “will go a long way to resolving the problems that were mentioned by the students. It was never our intention to cut off all these trips. It was really about looking at what was happening and making it safer.”
Ungar agreed to the revisions of the five-year-old policy after discussions occurred over the summer. The reason for the changes, explained Stob, was due to Perl’s awareness of two trips, the Ultimate Frisbee Team’s Spring Break trip and the New Orleans service trip.
“Having an official college trip that has no controls or accountability just raises some concerns about using college money,” Stob explained. “I think there were general concerns about trips of that nature, longer-term trips, that were going on.”
Stob did, however, imply that the revision of the policy may have been premature without initial student input. “[It] was developed to addressed those concerns without really realizing that there were many shorter term trips that we just didn’t know about because they hadn’t been reported,” she said.
To help draft the first revision, President Ungar asked for additional research by researching schools of similar size and basing the policy off previous examples. ”
Stob explained, “Sandy asked us to [look at other schools’ policies], which he usually does whenever we’re looking at a policy. There are some colleges that don’t have requirements; there are many that do. This policy falls in the mid-range. Most require advisors or faculty and staff representatives to go along.”
Both Burton-Graham and Stob expressed their pleasure with the student body’s reaction to the policy and the conversation that came from the initial SGA meeting about the new policy. “I went with Emily to the SGA meeting, and I haven’t been to an SGA meeting for a while, but I have to tell you I was very impressed by the tone of the conversation; it was very respectful.” She continued, “They made really good points and we listened to them and made changes to the policy because as I said it wasn’t our intention to impose an unworkable policy on students.”
According to Burton-Graham, the senior staff members were “pleased by two things. First, that we had this discussion, and that the administration and students could work together and come to an improved policy that addresses everyone’s concerns.” She continued, “Secondly, it was made very clear to me and I passed it along to senior staff that Barbara and Emily felt that the discussions with students had been very respectful and helpful with everyone recognizing and acknowledging the other’s concerns.”
Fittry, meanwhile, said, “I’m very glad to see that the constructive and insightful input of students helped to change this policy for the better and fill many of the gray areas which were contained within the first draft.” He continued, “I think this is a great example of how working together with the administration can produce results each party supports.”
But Fittry also promised, “the conversation [about the policy] will not stop. As feedback from this policy begins to roll in we will continue to work with clubs and the administration to deal with any problems or concerns and push for changes when the need arises.”
He believes that “the vast majority of clubs will not be effected in the least. The only real ‘roadblock’ students will face will be one additional, though quick, form to complete.”
Additionally, Fittry explained that if future problems arise, “the students should know that the SGA will support them and work to make any additional changes.”