Student input clarifies disciplinary procedures in Student Handbook

Zeyma Martinez, Reporter

The student handbookwhich is updated at least once every yearnow includes student-suggested revisions such as more concise language pertaining to sexual assault, the removal of gendered language and more clearly defined disciplinary action for hate incidents.

This is the first time students have been involved in the handbook revision process in Cal Lutheran history, said Christina Hanna, assistant director of Residence Life and Student Conduct.

Hanna said that in April she assembled three focus groups of five students to gather feedback on “the Student Handbook, policies, the conduct process, sanctions, and the University Hearing Board.”

Senior Karyme Lara Chagoya, one of the students involved in the focus groups, said her group noticed that the handbook had very clear guidelines on the school’s alcohol policy, and what happens if a student violates it, but it didn’t have clear guidelines on the consequences of sexual assault.

The students in her group all agreed that the school should add a more specific outline of the discipline practices that would be implemented in this situation.

Now, the handbook refers students to Cal Lutheran’s Title IX page for full definitions of procedures for resolving complaints.

Another new revision to the handbook is the addition of university procedures in response to hate crimes.

The revised handbook states, “California Lutheran University will respond to hate incidents in order to achieve the outcomes listed below:

  • Re-assert the values of the community, which as a whole are diminished by hate incidents.
  • Respond to the needs of the victim by following the measures outlined.
  • React responsibly to identify and prosecute the perpetrator of the hate incident/hate crime.
  • Re-establish a sense of safety and security on the campus and the surrounding community.”

In the 2019-2020 student handbook, the Hate Incidents Violation Sanctions stated,  “potential sanctions include… a disciplinary warning, participation in a diversity awareness education program and/or participation in restorative justice exercises. Depending on the severity and intentionality of a hate incident, student(s) involvements in such actions could be subject to residence hall or University suspension.”

In addition, Lara Chagoya said in an effort to be more inclusive, students recommended that all gendered language such as “his” and “her” be replaced with “their.”

Previously, there was a rule that prohibited a person of the opposite gender being in a residence hall room after 2 a.m. Now, guests are allowed as long as students request written permission from all roommates to have a guest stay overnight. That guest cannot exceed two nights in a row and four nights in a month.

The changes students suggested were discussed among Student Affairs, Residence Life and Student Conduct leadership during their annual policy meeting. The meeting, which occurred in June, was also held on Zoom and lasted about six hours.

After the initial meeting, several follow-up meetings took place, where proposed changes to university policies were shared with other departments, as well as Cal Lutheran’s legal council, to obtain more feedback.

Graphic by Serena Zuniga, Multimedia Editor

Because of the pandemic, there was a COVID-19 Addendum added to the Handbook. This says that students living in residence halls during the fall 2020 semester are not allowed any visitors. It also emphasizes hygiene, physical distancing and other illness-related measures.

The COVID-19 Addendum states that it is important for students to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer, as well as to clean and disinfect any surfaces they touch.

Physical distancing and the use of face masks when students are in public spaces on campus is required.

All students who have symptoms are required to report them to Health Services and get tested.

One of the most notable changes made was that the handbook was condensed from 112 pages to 73 pages. The previous handbook had a list of campus resources at the end that provided students with each department’s phone numbers, emails, etc.

Hanna said that students often look on the website for this information instead of checking the handbook and each department was asked to remove their contact information from the handbook and update it on the university website.

Hanna noted that doing so not only allows easier access to students, but helps each department keep their information more up to date. Those involved hope that a shorter handbook will allow students to review and retain more information about their rights and responsibilities as students.

The updated handbook for the 2020-2021 school year was published on the Cal Lutheran website on Aug. 21, 2020. If the handbook undergoes any further changes throughout the year, it will be updated on the university website for students to access.