SG Update 11/09
by Anika Talia Griffiths | published Nov. 15th, 2018
Joe Johnston, the current ombudsperson, spoke about the Ombuds Office. Previously the director of the Office for Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, Johnston switched to Ombuds in July of 2018. The office is staffed by Johnston, Lee Twyman and Dawn Sullivan. Since Lee Twyman is preparing for retirement, the office will soon be hiring for her position as associate ombudsperson. One of the requirements for her position is fluency in ASL, which allows for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to have equal access to the office.
“The idea [of the Ombuds office] is that you want to have one place that people can go to feel really safe and talk about what sort of conflict they might be having, without fearing that there’s going to be retribution, without fearing that someone’s going to rise up the flagpole and alert other people, without feeling that people are just going to talk and hang out or gossip, and also be able to get resources,” said Johnston.
The office has four fundamental points: independence, confidentiality, impartiality and informality.
It has a separate, independent budget and does not report to anyone but the RIT president. The office and its staff will not share any information told to them unless there is a threat of someone being harmed. The office does not take sides on any issue; rather, its staff focuses on resolving the conflict at hand. Finally, it is informal, which means that they have no set process and do not keep any documentation of what is done in their office. However, if the ombudsperson recognizes that one particular problem is recurring in the student body, they will bring it up to the RIT administration and help with creating improvements.
Some common tools used in the Ombuds Office are negotiation, mediation, coaching, consultation, referrals and policy or procedure review.
Since Ombuds has just gained a new ombudsperson and will soon be hiring a new associate ombudsperson, the office plans to advertise in order to increase awareness about its services and who the staff are.
Stacy Nation-Knapper, the director of YearOne Programs, and Chelsea Sims, the assistant director of YearOne Programs, introduced a new iteration of the mandatory year one class. Every few years, a new iteration is created to meet the new or growing needs of the student body.
To create this new program, Student Affairs created a task force to re-imagine the current YearOne course. The task force met with students, faculty and staff to discuss student needs. Focus groups were done with students, specifically student leaders in Orientation groups. Nation-Knapper and Sims met with the Board of Trustees last spring to discuss the ideas for the new course. Then, the Student Affairs Curriculum Committee approved the proposed iteration. The course is now available in SIS.
Through that long process, some of the feedback that Student Affairs received from students included wanting to have an active experience, wanting specific guidance in planning for the future, more choices in what they can do throughout the course, more interaction with the RIT community and the desire to have a tangible product at the end of the course.
Based on that feedback, Student Affairs came up with the updated first-year program called RIT 365. This new version has two areas of focus: student development and community building. The area of student development consists of students developing a plan and receiving feedback while building professional competency. The area of community building consists of helping students to become active in an organization or to make a positive impact by giving back to the community.
According to Sims, the class functions using a “Plan-Do-Reflect Cycle.”
“This is a three-week cycle that each class will take together several times throughout the semester that includes out-of-class planning for an experience [students] are going to go out on campus and do. The second week [the students] will be out doing something. And then the third week, back in the classroom, [they will be] reflecting on that experience,” said Sims.
Facilitators of the course will be properly trained with the dialogue facilitation model.
The “do” part of the cycle includes a wide variety of opportunities that will be based on whatever theme a student self-selects into. The themes are structured to be interdisciplinary, so that there is some overlap. Sandy Johnson, the senior vice president for Student Affairs, stated that health and wellness will be infused into all RIT 365 courses, regardless of theme.
The course will have a 365 mentoring portion where students will meet individually with the teacher and facilitator of the course. There will also be a “super-speaker” who is meant to inspire incoming students by sharing their own positive RIT experiences.
At the end of the course, students will have a portfolio that documents their experiences and shows how they developed throughout their first year.
Unlike YearOne, the RIT 365 course will be a full semester long.
Bobby Moakley, Student Government (SG) president and fourth year Environmental Science major reported that he spoke with the Board of Trustees this past week. They are proud of the work that SG is doing and are very interested in helping in the mental health issue. They also agreed to help in raising money for the Representative Student Organization endowed scholarship.
Statement on Mental Health
“Just to give some preface on how this statement came about, we did have a student death that was a tragedy for everyone all across the university last week. And this raised a lot of concerns that have been existing for the past few years in terms of some of the disparities in mental health resources on campus. So, we saw an overwhelming amount of support from students ... voicing individual stories in open forum,” said Moakley.
On Nov. 5, 2018, President Munson released a statement promising improvement to mental health resources. As a response to Munson’s statement and as a message to the student body, SG stated that they are committed to working with the university on multiple levels to hold it accountable for the promises made. SG also wants to ensure that other changes are made that were not mentioned in Munson’s statement.
The statement called for the creation of an internal task force that will help with the implementation of the improvements to the health center. It also asked that a student advisory board (SAB) be established under Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS). The task force will hand off to the CaPS SAB, which will be long-standing. The SAB will ensure that all student input gets to CaPS so that further improvements can be made over time to meet student needs. The statement also asked for more diverse counselors to be hired to help with RIT’s ALAANA, LGBTQ+ and Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. The statement specified that RIT should hire a variety of mental health professionals including counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists.
The statement was endorsed unanimously by SG.
Charges and Responses
A petition asking for free printing on campus was given an update. It is currently being advocated for. The petition will be kept open so that more updates can be given.
A petition asking for hand sanitizer in the Nathaniel Rochester Hall computer lab was officially charged to FPAT committee. Solutions are already underway.
A petition asking for extended bus scheduling that suits students in night classes was tabled. Busses do run until after midnight for students in night classes. However, work is currently being done to revise the bussing system and update the schedule.
A petition asking for an end to “explosive offers” was charged to the GCCIS senator and Academics and Co-ops Committee. Explosive offers are job or internship opportunities that are only available for a very limited time. The GCCIS senator agreed that explosive offers can be unfair to students since internships and jobs cannot be decided on within the one or two-day period to which the offer limits students.
The GCCIS senator will be meeting with administrators to discuss the offensive mural in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. The mural depicts Thomas Golisano's role in working to rehabilitate disabled patients. According to a Pawprints Petition, many argue that this depiction seems to portray all those with disabilities as less-than and in need of "fixing."
Jacob Ellis, Academics and Co-ops Committee chair and second year International Business and Finance double major, and Taylor Ruggero, director of Programming and fifth year Criminal Justice major, met with the ad hoc C23 committee to discuss policy C23, the Policy on Consensual, Romantic or Sexual Relationships.