After a revised transportation policy was put into effect on a one-year trial basis by members of senior staff on Friday, September 28, heads of various clubs affected by the policy and Associate Dean of Student Engagement (OSE) Emily Perl, who helped draft the policy, expressed views about the changes.
Under the new policy, student clubs and organizations on campus must 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 unless waived.
The latest version of the policy was announced in a Student Government Association (SGA) Senate meeting on October 3.
Perl could not attend the Senate meeting due to a faculty meeting, although she noted, “it was reported back to [her] that SGA felt good about the changes and the way in which they had been able to voice their concerns and have their opinions taken into consideration.”
The changes, according to Perl, were due to students voicing protests about the revised policy after the SGA meeting on September 18. “Several students set up individual appointments with me to discuss their own concerns,” she said.
After the conversations, Perl realized that the changes, especially the requirements for overnight trips outside the Baltimore/DC region, “were going to restrict some student groups more than [she] had anticipated.” Perl highlighted the Ultimate Frisbee Team’s tournament trips as especially being affected by the previously altered policy and prompting a further revised policy.
Perl “sensed that students wanted more concrete guidelines” and put in place the 250-mile radius change to the policy “rather than the vague and more restricting “guideline about trips outside the Baltimore/DC region.”
Involved in those conversations with Perl was Blair Shevlin ’13, the President of the Ultimate Frisbee Team, and Oliver Wilkinson ’13, the captain. “We had been in contact with other clubs, specifically Hiking, Pitchin’ Tents, GRANOLA, and Veritas, and tried to communicate how this policy negatively affected many clubs,” explained Shevlin.
He continued, “We made several recommendations, which we now see in the current policy, such as getting rid of the vague notion of the ‘Baltimore/DC region’ and ensuring that the policy was no longer under the sole discretion of the Dean of Student Engagement.”
Shevlin noted that while the new policy allows the team to attend most of their tournaments, some, such as the tournaments held at Guilford College in North Carolina and SUNY – Fredonia in New York, will be potentially affected.
Shevlin said that under the new guidelines the team “can no longer make it to [their] Spring Break trip to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.”
Alumni support is one way in which the team is currently reaching out for support to get additional changes to the policy made. Shevlin would ultimately like to see “the policy scrapped and have a committee of administrators, faculty, and students get together to draft a new policy which takes into account all points of view.”
Shelvin noted that, “The alumni are currently drafting a letter to send to Sandy in opposition of this policy, the way in which it implements, and what it means to students.”
Additionally, a petition drafted by Christina Kim, the Ultimate Frisbee Team’s SGA Representative, has about 400 Goucher students and faculty opposing the new travel policy.”
Since the policy’s announcement on October 3, Perl noted that Veritas, the Philosophy Club, contacted her “about a trip which seven students plan to make to a philosophy conference in Rochester, NY,” a location “slightly” outside the 250-mile radius.
As a result, student organizers for the club researched additional forms of transportation to attend the conference “given that the new policy states that trips outside the 250-mile radius may not typically utilize student drivers.” Perl continued, “They found the costs for other forms of transportation to be much higher than they had anticipated, and came back to me to ask what they should do.”
Perl then spoke to Barbara Stob, the legal counsel who also drafted the policy and attended the SGA meeting on September 18. In the latest version of the policy, according to the email she sent to Fittry, the decision to include the legal team in the decision-making process was to “address… concern that some students expressed about one person being the sole decision-maker.”
According to Perl, an “exception based on the criteria found within the policy, which “include distance and length of trip; the nature and risk level of the activities on the trip; and issues, if any related to this or other past trips taken by the student organization or individual student drivers,” was granted.
In this instance, a compromise was made to ensure that “two approved student drivers [appear] in each car, so that no one student will be driving further than the 250-mile radius.”
Uriah London, the President of Veritas, who did not take part in the meetings about the conference with Perl, said, “All I can say is thank God for the appeal process.” He continued that he takes issue with the additional costs associated with the new policy, along with the chaperone requirement.
London praised the use of approved drivers for future trips. “I think that is a step in the right direction to have ‘certified’ people be allowed to drive groups of Goucher students,” he explained.
According to Samuel Savin of GRANOLA, the club responsible for conducting community service projects in New Orleans,
because the trip relies heavily on transportation, “without being allowed to use student drivers, going to and from these volunteer sites becomes a serious issue.” Hiring professional transportation services, meanwhile, comes with a high price, he explained. “My main issue with the policy is that requiring a chaperone on the trip undermines the whole point of a student-led and organized trip,” said Savin
He does see some benefits, noting increased accountability and support from the staff and faculty. “We have met with the Office of Student Engagement to see if the policy can be over-riden. Since the new policy affects our group in such a drastic manner, we feel like it is important to meet some level of compromise with the administration. We would be open to working with other student groups and SGA as well,” he continued.
Like Savin in some ways, Shevlin believes more needs to be done regarding the policy, saying that the “fight isn’t over yet.”
He continued, “The way the administration went about creating this policy, without student or faculty-adviser input, was fundamentally flawed.” He wished administration would not have made changes without initial student input, a response to the policy being drafted this past summer and announced at the semester’s start.
Fittry noted, “I think that the kinks have been worked out, thankfully, and that the policy as it stands now will not affect many clubs in the long run. I think the only major obstacle we will face is simply getting used to the policy and reminding students about the added paperwork that goes along with any trips off campus. Again, it’s just a simple form, but getting used to the process will take some getting used to for clubs and SGA I’m sure.”