By Joey Carmichael /// News Editor
Lewis & Clark students are concerned about their rights. Last year, it was OLCC officers knocking on dorm-room and off-campus doors. This year, it’s the Rusty Nail shutdown and Reed College warning LC interlopers to keep out. In addition, students want to know the extent to which they can exert influence over the College’s Code of Conduct. On Tuesday, March 11, ASLC, under new President Musa Ahmed (’14), hosted an Open Forum to address these concerns and more.
Students voiced many of their own questions or worries. One student asked whether the Code of Conduct applies regardless of the violator’s physical location. Others asked what the proper approach should be if a student disagrees with some administrative action and how to ensure legitimate follow-up. Much of the discussion centered around OLCC presence, and Forest Area Director Logan Thurnauer was present to respond and inform. Two ASLC senators expressed their belief that the issue is not that students don’t feel like they can speak out, but that they feel as if they are “yelling into a black hole” or being “stonewalled” when and if they do.
Vice President of Campus Living Michael Ford, who has worked for LC in a variety of roles for 38 years, attended the forum and offered his insight. Ford served as dean of students in the 1990s. Prior to his deanship, he said, there was no official code of conduct and each group of residence halls had their own peer review boards to adjudicate violations. As he stepped into his new role, however, colleges across the nation were introducing official codes of conduct. Ford followed suit, establishing the Peer Review Board. Ford and the PRB collectively created the Code of Conduct, arguing over each printed line until they reached a compromise. They also agreed to require an annual review—the Code of Conduct, they felt, needed to be subjected to intense scrutiny each year to make sure that the College’s policies follow the College’s values and culture.
However, after Ford’s service as dean, he said, the Code of Conduct lost some of its transparency. Ford lamented this change, attributing some of the failure to the Code’s shift from print to digital form. He stressed that he was not being critical of any of the outcomes, and not saying that students don’t actually have power, only that he wished to encourage students to remain active. He urged the students present to ensure that they still have the capacity to change College policy. Students hold power, and the administration cannot impose upon that power.
“That’s tradition,” Ford said. “This place exists because of you. If the process is such that you don’t have a voice, make it happen. Take ownership.”
With the new Student Rights and Responsibilities Board and the restructuring of the Peer Review Authority, students have a great opportunity to do just that. Forum attendees discussed the goals of the new PRA. Rusty Nail coordinators, speaking from their own recent efforts, said that there’s no effective system in place for student-administration cooperation and problem resolution. Many felt that the PRA should create such a system, acting as a liaison between students and administrators.
One of the current ideas is to hold weekly meetings or workshops for students. Each workshop would focus on a single issue students may face—OLCC one week, sexual harassment the next week and so on. These meetings would be put online and publicized for students who could not attend. Another idea was to create a flowchart detailing potential conduct violations, procedures, resources and outcomes.
Attendees acknowledged that one of the main obstacles to such progress is student involvement and motivation. Without a motivated student body, nothing will change. “Students need to recognize ALSC as their representative voice,” ASLC President Ahmed said.
ASLC Senator Charlie Patterson (’14) concurred. “ASLC is only as representative and effective as the student body makes it.”