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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Policies to be reviewed

St. Joe’s administration discusses updates in Student Handbook

This is part two of an ongoing investigation into the Saint Joseph’s University Student Handbook.

The Saint Joseph’s University 2016-2017 Student Handbook, effective June 22, 2016, was distributed online to the student body, staff, and faculty. It is signed, or acknowledged, by the student body electronically, when students log into The Nest at the beginning of the fall semester.

In order to have access to The Nest, Saint Joseph’s students are required to sign the Student Handbook prior to beginning the academic year. Regardless of whether the students have read the policies in-depth or not, the student body is expected to be aware and to adhere to the policies.

“You acknowledge it [the Student Handbook] when you log on during the beginning of the semester, and you understand that you are responsible for its policies,” said Cary Anderson, Ed.D., vice president of Student Life and associate provost.

The Student Handbook is reviewed annually, according to Anderson.

“Every summer, there’s a review of the policies,” Anderson said. “Generally speaking, there’s not really any wholesale changes to things. Through the years, if there’s laws that change—around Title IX, for example—there’s always new things coming out [to update in the Handbook] to make sure we are in compliance with the law. There’s updates made to these types of things.”

St. Joe’s also communicates with neighboring schools in order to better address policy, according to Anderson.

“What I do is consult with other vice presidents at other area schools or Jesuit network[s] to talk about what their policies are and try to understand that,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of webinars that different organizations put on about various areas—kind of specialty areas. So, we view those over the year to see what other people are doing and [what the] best practices are, either compliance or case laws.”

Two different kinds of policies exist in the Student Handbook: Student Life policies and University Council policies. Student Life policies are developed by The Office of Student Life, while University Council policies are owned by the University Council, according to Anderson.

“We have policies that Student Life does, just on its own,” said Anderson. “And then there’s ones that go through University Council. Those [University Council policies] are for implications across a broader swath of the university. And it may or may not be part of specific students, it may affect other people.”

Policies that fall under the scope of University Council have a different, more time-consuming process of review than that of Student Life.


“The University Council process— [and] changing the policy through that process—is not as nimble to change things… The University Council policies are owned by University Council, and any changes to those policies need to go through University Council,” Anderson said.

The University Council, according to the Student Handbook, “is the main body for policy formation at the university.” Anderson said the University Council is comprised of several committees.

“In terms of University Council, there are two committees, sub-committees of the University Council, undergraduate students, and one is adult, graduate students, and there are representatives who are on those committees,” Anderson said. “And if and when those meet, then that’s the time for student input on those policies.”

When asked to comment on which policies are vetted by University Council, Dawn Burdsall, M.B.A., assistant provost for Operations, said in an emailed statement, “Any policies that are in the Student Handbook that were approved by the University Council are designated as such in the handbook. (Example: Academic Dishonesty Policy on p. 34 of the 2016-17 Student Handbook).”

Other policies approved by the University Council, according to the Student Handbook, include Community Standards policies, the Policy on AIDS, and the Sexual Activity Policy, among others.

This summer, according to Anderson, Student Life decided to look at the policies attributed to the University Council.

“I, with the associate vice presidents, decided that this was the time we were going to look at all the University Council policies. [We decided that] we would update those and then put the ones that needed to go through the University Council through the University Council in that particular piece… Quite honestly, a lot of the policies have sat there for quite a while, and again [this summer] we decided it was time to kind of look at those things.”

Policies added to the Student Handbook in August 2015 include the new Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation, as well as the new Sexual Misconduct Policy, according to Anderson, which were updated for and reflected in the 2015-2016 Student Handbook, with an email notification sent out to all students.

Further, an addition of Pregnancy and Genetic Info to the Discrimination Policy per Federal Guideline, according to Anderson, was reflected in the 2015-2016 Student Handbook. This update was added on Dec. 4, 2015, without a notification sent to students.

Currently, there are a few aspects of the Handbook that are in the process of revision.

“I can say that the Sexual Activity Policy, we started looking at that and I’ve been having conversations with folks about that since the summer,” Anderson said. “So, this was one of the ones that was identified early on as a policy to look at, and that’s a University Council policy. So…all of those are in play right now, where they will end up I don’t know at this point.”

In terms of reviewing specific language, Anderson said that the Handbook is addressing gender inclusivity by focusing on gender-specific pronouns.

“We’re going through the Handbook right now and we’re taking out gender specific pronouns, and that kind of thing… The movement to make the language more gender inclusive is absolutely something I would like to move forward with.”

Striking a balance, though, according to Anderson, is Student Life’s mission.

“A student need [and] a student definition of diversity and my need and my definition… Have different views,” Anderson said. “So, it’s incumbent of the Office of Student Life and my position, to take all of those interests in these different things and try to find a balance in all of that.”

The Student Handbook, in all of its facets, according to Anderson, reflects the university’s Jesuit ideals. Anderson said that finding that balance, while keeping students’ needs apparent in the Handbook, is integral to fostering inclusivity.

Graphic by Luke Malanga, '20
Graphic by Luke Malanga, ’20

“A lot of these policies reflect the context of the institution,” Anderson said. “Again, finding that balance… Is there room for improvement? Absolutely.”

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