Changes made to student Rights and Responsibilities
The University updated its Rights and Responsibilities handbook prior to the academic year, making notable changes to the Special Examiner’s process and the procedure for the disruption of scheduled speakers or events.
In an Aug. 28 email to the student body, Director of Student Rights and Community Standards Kerry Guerard wrote that the majority of the revisions in the 2017 to 2018 handbook “centered on clarifying language and processes.”
According to the Department of Students Rights and Community Standards, the Rights and Responsibilities policies “provide the definitions, structure, and policies for community life on campus. Adherence to Rights and Responsibilities is a prerequisite for acceptance and ongoing membership in the University community.”
In addition to clarifying its definition of sexual harassment — per 3.2, “Sexual harassment creates a hostile environment when conduct is severe, pervasive or persistent so as to cause a discriminatory effect” — the University also updated the Special Examiner’s process in regards to interviews with parties and witnesses.
The new language makes the sexual history of either party with third parties inadmissible as evidence, also stating that immigration status will not be considered during a Title IX report or adjudication.
The University also clarified its policy on the disruption of scheduled speakers and events in section 7.5, stating that while “Brandeis maintains a high tolerance for protest, … disruptions that prevent a planned event from continuing are not permissible.”
Under this policy, students who disrupt an event in a way that interferes with its ability to continue as planned will be warned and then asked to leave the event. If a student refuses to comply and cease disruptions, they will face undefined “disciplinary consequences,” according to the handbook.
In March, political scientist Charles Murray was prevented from delivering a planned speech at Middlebury College when protesters chanted and yelled vulgar language during the event. Protesters — many of whom objected to Murray’s alleged racist and homophobic views — also surrounded and threw rocks at the car Murray and a faculty member were in.
“While such behavior cannot and will not be tolerated on our campus, I am afraid that, absent a shared understanding of what free expression means and how it relates to one’s education, what happened at Middlebury could happen at any American college or university,” University President Ronald Liebowitz wrote in an email to the Brandeis community following the incident.
“A democratic society, and an education worth anything, must include the kind of engagement that challenges and extends one’s own limited understanding of any issue, including hearing views that potentially alienate, anger, or upset us,” he added.
The University made additional changes to code 2.11, which asks community members to refrain from using electronic devices in a way that invades another’s privacy when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The new language defines “public spaces” and clarifies that the policy is not meant to apply to commonly-accepted journalistic practices on campus.
“Public spaces in general are not areas in which privacy can be reasonably expected,” the policy reads. “A public event is defined as an event held either in a public and open space on campus or to which a general announcement has been made or a general invitation has been extended.” A note on the amended document explains that the rationale for the change was to clarify information in a way that allows student journalists on campus to use recording devices at public events.
Other major revisions include the prohibition of the use of drones and hoverboards on campus.
Hoverboards were previously prohibited on campus in January 2016 due to the well-documented risk of spontaneous combustion, according to a Jan. 5, 2016 email from Vice President for Campus Operations Jim Gray.
The University also convened a drone committee in the fall of 2015 to examine safety and privacy issues related to the use of drones on campus.
“Although there wasn’t a specific incident on campus that drove our decision, there have been reports across the country of drones flying into and injuring people. There is also the issue of one’s right to not be photographed or videotaped without permission, and many drones are equipped to capture photos and videos,” Gray wrote in an email to the Justice at the time.