Staff Editorial: Discuss Handbook Revisions

Last Thursday, RPI released its revisions to the Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Most of the changes seem minor and straightforward, altering language to more clearly or accurately explain the meaning that was already there. The Poly finds nothing wrong with the minor alterations made to the Academic Dishonesty/Integrity policy or the sexual harassment policy.

The more controversial aspect of the Handbook is the extension of Rensselaer’s disciplinary jurisdiction to include off-campus student conduct. This is a complicated issue that could have both positive and negative outcomes. Given the ability to discipline rowdy students living off-campus, RPI might be able to improve its relationship with their Troy neighbors. Assuming this is the Institute’s intent for this new power, we’re cautiously optimistic—if we’re in better standing with the city, everyone benefits.

However, if misused, the new policy could be a potential student rights problem, blurring the line between school and private student life. On one hand, RPI students clearly represent the school even off campus. On the other, those living off campus should be granted a reasonable degree of privacy and independence when they are not on Rensselaer property.

Student Senate isn’t rushing its decision to approve or reject the changes, which is definitely good. Student representatives should be taking the time needed to fully explore the possible effects of these Handbook revisions and ensure the phrasing accurately reflects the intentions of the administration. Grand Marshal Kevin Dai ’14 ran on a platform of listening to students. The Poly looks forward to seeing whether this promise is fulfilled.

If you have questions for the administration about the Handbook, we encourage you to also attend Dean of Students Mark Smith’s meeting with the Senate this Thursday at 6 pm in Union Room 3502.