By Sophie Foster
In an email sent to the student body on Sept. 15, the Department of Student Affairs announced the release of the student handbook for the academic year, including several policy alterations.
According to the email, the 2022-2023 edition of the handbook features a new social media policy, a new student business policy, and an additional campus event policy designed to complement the preexisting student event policy.
“The student handbook…is sort of a contract between [administration] and the students where we say, ‘we’re going to provide you this, and in exchange, you need to make sure you follow these policies,’” Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Sarah Feyerherm said. “It’s a guide for students to help them understand all the support, resources, and opportunities they have, most of which are outside the classroom.”
According to Dr. Feyerherm, the handbook is typically updated each summer, who oversees the handbook’s assembly each year and ensures information is incorporated in places that make sense.
Aside from Dr. Feyerherm, several students and administrative figures, and occasionally legal counsel, are involved in the decision-making process for the handbook’s layout and content each year.
One such example of a policy resulting from student involvement is this year’s new social media policy. According to Dr. Feyerherm, “this is definitely one of those policies that’s really grassroots…we always sort of adjudicated [social media misuse] under other violations, but it was the students who said, ‘we really want to make this a distinct policy.’”
According to Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator Greg Krikorian, who reviews handbook changes related to Title IX, student conduct, and counseling and mental health, “the social media policy was established based on issues and concerns related to misuse of this mode of communication. The specific policy was crafted in collaboration with [the] Student Government [Association and the] Honor Board, [and]…is consistent with similar policies at other institutions.”
Dr. Feyerherm said that the introduction of the policy was approached with the intent to demonstrate to students that harm caused on social media can be just as damaging and lasting as harm caused verbally or physically. The priority, according to Dr. Feyerherm, is the preserved safety and wellbeing of the students.
The new student business policy was also created with student wellbeing in mind. According to Dr. Feyerherm, in previous years there was a blanket policy prohibiting students from running personal businesses out of residence halls, but Washington College wanted to improve opportunities for “students with entrepreneurial spirit.”
According to Krikorian, “the policy addressing student businesses was developed after a student was initially denied an opportunity to coordinate a business out of their room. A group including Risk Management, Student Affairs, Business Office, and student representation were included in the process of creating a mechanism for students to engage in these endeavors.”
The concept of this policy is that students will be able to protect themselves, obtain licensing and insurance, and practice caution when approaching a potential business practice. Dr. Feyerherm encouraged students who are considering building a business to read the policy and communicate their intentions. She urges students not to be intimidated by the policy’s length — there are people who will help students navigate the process to ensure nothing is overlooked.
The final change of import to the handbook was a new campus event policy to be read in conjunction with the student event policy. According to Dr. Feyerherm, this policy was created in acknowledgment of the fact that there was no policy in place for events that weren’t purely social activities. While the student event policy covers events such as Shoremal and Birthday Ball, the campus event policy was designed with student movements and demonstrations in mind.
“We want [students] to fully utilize the freedoms that they have here,” Dr. Feyerherm said, adding that it is integral to the handbook’s success that students communicate their questions and concerns, which can be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.