By Hadley Barndollar
Two-and-a-half pages of sexual misconduct policy in the Student Rights, Rules and Responsibilities (SRRR) handbook have been missing since the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
The discovery came in early October when Student Senate could not locate records of the change in any meeting minutes. The search was sparked after an opinion piece published in The New Hampshire on Sept. 10 entitled “Questions about Consent” by Tim Drugan-Eppich, prompted Student Body Vice President Ryan Grogan to revisit the university’s definition of consent.
Per the Senate’s constitution, administration is required to present it with any changes regarding student life.
“This was taken out without our approval,” Grogan said.
The pages contained definitions of consent, options for sexual assault survivors, drug-facilitated sexual assaults, reporting sexual misconduct, sanctions available, criminal complaints, medical attention, evidence collection and on-campus resources.
The question now remains, why were these policies taken out and how was Student Senate not notified?
Grogan retyped the missing pages and submitted them to Student Senate on Oct. 4, where they passed unanimously. According to Grogan, Student Senate speaker Gabe Hoffman then wrote a cover letter addressed to the Office of Community Standards, SHARPP, Ted Kirkpatrick, Chris Clement and Mark Huddleston “requesting that the attached language is immediately added back” to the SRRR.
Over the last few weeks, Grogan and Student Body President Cameron Cook have worked closely with Acting Dean of Students, Ted Kirkpatrick, to reinsert the pages.
“SRRR is a complicated document,” Grogan said. “There will be no new physical hard copy of it this year. Students are required to follow the online version. So we’re working with [Kirkpatrick] to get it back into the online document.”
Steven Nelson, director of the Office of Community Standards, took action when the issue was brought to his attention.
“With regards to the missing pages, I do not remember why they were removed or left out of the SRRR two years ago,” Nelson said. “When it was brought to my attention that they were missing, I immediately got them back up on my website in the easiest way possible.”
As of this week, the sexual misconduct policy is now posted on the Office of Community Standards’ website in its own tab on the left side of the page. The document is the scanned version of the missing handbook pages the Student Senate resubmitted.
Nelson noted that his office is not responsible for the publishing of the SRRR other than the Code of Student Conduct.
According to Kirkpatrick, the question of why the pages were dropped circles back to an original concern around the language and its relativity to Title IX compliance.
“[Cook] and [Grogan] brought the omission to my attention approximately two weeks ago,” Kirkpatrick said. “I will be working closely with them and the Student Senate in the coming months to revisit the language of the SRRR, including the language in the restored section, and to simplify it and make it much more accessible to UNH students.”
Kirkpatrick said they were still in the process of deactivating the old online document that appears on the OCS website. The updated SRRR can now be found on the student and academic services section of the UNH website.
While Student Senate has searched for answers in the disappearance of these pages, it has come up empty handed.
“No one knows why this was taken out in the first place,” Grogan said.
According to Cook, having the pages reposted and brought to light is a “small victory.”
“When [Grogan and I] discovered this issue, we vowed to act fast,” Cook said. “[Grogan] took the mission on without thinking twice, and we succeeded for students. My comment at this time is this is a small victory and proof we need to continue to lobby for more policy that ensures student safety and well-being through accessible written language.”
Other members of Student Senate worried that by taking out the written policy, the door can be left open for interpretation.
Student Senate’s next goal is to add encompassing language to these misconduct policies, including stalking and domestic violence.
An ‘under the radar’ sequence of events, the discovery of these missing pages sparked quick action by Student Senate, but it is still expected to be a lengthy process.
Grogan says student awareness should be heightened by this situation.
“Students should care about this because it’s something that is very prevalent on this campus,” he said. “one in four women, one in 10 men will have an unwanted sexual experience. For the document we’re supposed to follow to not encompass something like that is unacceptable.”
Grogan called for greater action by administration to not let a fallacy such as this slip through its fingers again.
“Our university needs to do better in making sure we do all we can for survivors and victims. And those of us who aren’t survivors or victims, we need to hold the university accountable.”