While the majority of students may have spent their summer breaking the rules, the University of Miami Dean of Student’s Office was busy creating new ones.
Policies addressing student vices such as gambling, underage drinking and scandalous photos on Facebook are among the changes that were made to the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook (SR&R) this summer.
The process by which such changes were enacted began last January. Gregory Singleton, the associate dean of students and director of judicial affairs, said the Dean’s Office contacted all academic and administrative departments and requested that they provide suggestions for improvement.
“We looked at what was being recommended and we made changes,” Singleton said. “[Then] we sent it to general council and the vice president of student affairs [to get approval].”
Once completed, the Dean’s Office posted the handbook online at www.miami.edu/dean-students for returning students to read. A printed copy of the handbook was distributed to freshman and transfer students at orientation.
Only three major changes were made for the 2006-2007 edition of the SR&R, Singleton said.
One of the changes is a policy on gambling, an issue he described as “one of the leading issues facing college students.”
According to page 60 of the handbook, “It is prohibited to play in an unlawful game of chance for money or for anything of value on university premises or at any affair sponsored by a student organization.”
“The implementation of the gambling policy was, from our perspective, to aid the students,” Singleton said. “If there are policies in place to prohibit [gambling], our premise is that we are being proactive to try to prevent it to begin with and perhaps it might impede a student from developing a habit or obsession with it.”
Nikki Tucci, a junior, said she believes the new rule is intrusive.
“Honestly, if it’s a school group that’s sponsoring [gambling], I don’t know if that’s right,” she said, “but if it’s just a group of students doing it for their own fun at their own risk, I don’t see a problem.”
A second amendment to the SR&R dictates that students living at University Village should expect to pay higher fines for underage drinking than those living at the residential colleges.
According to page 95 of the handbook, the minimum fine for such an offense at the Village is $100, and at least $50 for students living elsewhere on campus.
Singleton said UV residents face a higher fine because the university wants to ensure that student conduct does not adversely affect its relationship with the neighborhood association.
“University Village is in a neighborhood section so it’s a little different than being in our self-enclosed campus,” he said. “We have to be very [considerate of] our neighbors.”
Singleton also expects that the status of the students living in the Village implies a degree of compliance.
“The other thing is that the residences in University Village are upperclassmen,” he said. “We will expect that upperclassmen are going to be much more adherent to our policies because they’ve been a part of the community [longer than students living at the residential colleges].”
Tucci, who moved into the Village last Saturday, doubts that the increased fine will have much of an influence on underage drinking.
“To [students], it’s [just] a fine,” she said. “They pay it and the next day, it’s probably forgotten about. I really don’t think money is that big of a deterrent to a lot of students at this school.”
Katy Carey, a junior who moved into her UV apartment last Sunday, was surprised by the reason for the increased fine.
“We’re living right next to the fraternity houses,” she said. “I feel that there’s going be a lot less disturbances and disruptions with University Village than the fraternity houses just because they have parties outside.”
Singleton explained that the social network policy on page 60 of the handbook is an addition influenced not only by underage drinking, but also by “numerous student postings on Facebook and threats being made to other students on Facebook.”
According to the policy, “being displayed in an activity that violates federal, state or local law and/or any regulation outlined in the University of Miami Student Rights and Responsibilities is prohibited.”
Alfred DeGemmis, a freshman, believes the policy is justified.
“Anything you put on the internet is fair game,” he said. “If there’s a picture of you drinking [in a dorm room] on the internet, you should be held accountable and [face the] consequences.”
Robin Clayton, a junior, sees things differently. She said she understands the legal aspect of the policy, but finds it morally questionable.
“Students should use good judgment but the deans should use good judgment when they’re exercising disciplinary action,” she said. “I mean, if a [student’s] not hurting anyone, leave them alone.”
Although Singleton does not search the internet looking for violations of the SR&R, he does believe that students should exercise caution when managing their online profiles.
“We want our students to get a quality education, but we also want their actions to reflect honorably upon UM, not negatively,” he said.
He added, “Students need to be aware of how they’re depicting themselves; employers are looking at [those sites] now.”
Peren Sabuncu, a junior, is not as concerned with the content of the rules as much as she is about students not being informed about the new policies.
“Some people are not even aware that there is a handbook,” she said. “I thought that it just stayed the same. I didn’t realize that amendments were made to it, so how do you know if anything [can get you in trouble] if you don’t even know the [SR&R changes] exist?”
Singleton said that a lack of awareness pertaining to the SR&R is part of the reason why the Dean’s Office has an outreach program for students.
“Staff members from our office go and speak [about the academic and social responsibilities of students] at new student orientation,” he said. “This year is the first time we’ve done that.”
Nick Maslow may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.