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University looks to revise du Lac

MADELINE BUCKLEY and SARAH MERVOSH | Friday, February 26, 2010

Editor’s note: This is the second and final installment of a two-part series examining the policies and possible revisions of du Lac, the student handbook.

Senior John Saulitis has been on both sides of the University’s disciplinary process.
He faced the consequences of ResLife himself and used that experience to assist others as a peer advocate.

One thing Saulitis has learned is that students who are ResLifed at Notre Dame are not “criminals.”

“People make mistakes, and when you make something as rigid as the ResLife process, as du Lac is, you’re going to catch a lot of good people that maybe did something that they regret,” Saulitis said.

The University is currently making revisions to du Lac, the student handbook, and student government will make recommendations for changes Monday. If accepted, the recommendations would update du Lac to make it more student-friendly, student body president Grant Schmidt said.

Associate Vice President for Residence Life Bill Kirk said du Lac is reviewed every six to eight years, and he characterized this process as a “major” review.

The University is evaluating all student life policies for “their effectiveness, consistency and appropriateness with [the University’s] mission,” Kirk said.

Schmidt said the most important recommendation will be for the adoption of a medical amnesty policy, which was recently passed in Student Senate.

If adopted by the University, the policy would prevent a student seeking medical treatment for a friend from getting in trouble with the Office of Residence Life and Housing (ORLH).

The policy would allow ORLH to educate the student, through alcohol classes for example, but the incident would not go on the student’s disciplinary record, Schmidt said.

Saulitis agreed that student safety should come before the rules of du Lac.

“Maybe that person falls and hurts themselves and there’s parietals. You can’t sit there until the morning if they’ve broke an arm or something like that,” Saulitis said. “Student safety should always come before the rules at Notre Dame.”

Kirk said his Office has not yet been provided with details on student government’s suggestion for a medical amnesty policy.

Schmidt said student government will also propose that discipline be handled at the most localized level possible. In particular, the recommendation will ask that first offenses be handled at the discretion of the rector.

“If you [get in trouble] in Fisher, don’t you think if it’s your first incidence of intoxication, the rector of Fisher should probably call your rector?” Schmidt said.

Student body vice president Cynthia Weber said, “Our mentality is that problems should be dealt with at the most localized level. Things that can be handled in dorm often should be handled in dorm.”

Breen Phillips Hall rector Rachel Kellogg said many du Lac first-time offenses are handled in the residence halls, and she thinks students are often unaware of this as ORHL and rectors are concerned about privacy issues.

“There are a lot of first-time issues that get dealt with in hall that I think a lot of people don’t see,” Kellogg said.

Schmidt recognized that many rectors already communicate with each other before taking the discipline to a higher level, but said this policy would make it a requirement that a student’s rector be given the choice to deal with the incident in the dorm.

Junior Zach Reuvers has been ResLifed more than once, and he said he sees an inconsistency in the way the University handles some infractions in the dorm and some in ORLH.

Reuvers said he was ResLifed for playing beer pong — a drinking game involving shooting ping-pong balls in cups of beer — in his dorm room, but he said he knows of other instances where drinking game violations only levied a hall fine.

“The [disciplinary] process in the residence halls needs a clarification,” Reuvers said. “They admitted in my hearing that they don’t typically hear drinking game sanctions unless they are really serious.”

Along with the medical amnesty policy, student government is also discussing a recommendation to lift the ban on drinking games, Schmidt said.

“I’m not trying to condone underage drinking,” Schmidt said. “But we are trying to address that the general culture on campus has changed.”

Weber said drinking games have become a part of the culture, and are often times not abusive.

“The genesis of drinking games has gone from drinking games are a way to get drunk, whereas now drinking games are such a part of drinking culture,” Weber said. “Drinking games happen to be a part of the casual drinking culture that is not binge drinking.”

Schmidt said the goal is to prevent abusive drinking, and allowing drinking games on campus may help reduce the number of students who go to off-campus parties.

“We will recommend that they at least look at that policy because a lot of times students are driven to off-campus parties [because of on-campus alcohol rules],” he said. “We want people to stay on campus.”

Kirk said it is unlikely the University will revise du Lac to allow drinking games.

“Drinking games are virtually always associated with drinking alcohol to excess and with the intention of becoming intoxicated … I can’t envision a change in our rules or regulations that would in any way moderate the University’s disapproval of such behavior,” he said.

Kellogg said drinking games can be problematic in the dorms, especially for freshmen.
“Its so easy to get drunk faster than you intend to,” she said.

Under student government’s recommendation for a revision of the drinking game ban, the rector would determine whether the drinking game caused students to abuse alcohol, Schmidt said.

As a rector, Kellogg said she sees her role in enforcing du Lac as educational.
“It’s not just a list of dos and don’ts,” she said. “It’s more about living together in a community that is fair and pleasant for everyone.”

In his role as a peer advocate, Saulitis said while every University needs a disciplinary process, he sees some weaknesses in the ResLife system.

“I think the biggest problem with ResLife that they’ve gotten to the point where it’s all about the rules and not about the students anymore,” he said.

To make the process more “about the students,” Saulitis recommended students work for ORLH and sit on the decision-making panel in administrative hearings.

“I think students would be as tough as the people in Reslife,” he said. “I think a student would ask different questions, would ask important questions.”

Kirk said the University is seeking student input on possible du Lac revisions.

“We look forward to hearing from students,” he said. “All the input will be considered — whether or not it will find its way into the revision of du Lac will depend entirely upon its consistency with the University’s mission to contribute to the moral, intellectual, spiritual and social growth of the students and groups that make up our University community.”