Student Petition Leads to Dialogue with Residential Education

On Oct. 2, a petition was drafted and circulated around campus by several NYU Abu Dhabi students who hoped to bring some of their concerns about Office ...

Oct 25, 2014

On Oct. 2, a petition was drafted and circulated around campus by several NYU Abu Dhabi students who hoped to bring some of their concerns about Office of Residential Education policies to the university administration.
The petition consisted of five points: student privacy, Residential Assistant rounds before quiet hours, Res Ed culture for RAs, opaque policies and a request for a consolidation of policies.
When asked about the development of the petition, senior Corey Meyer, one of the drafters of the document, stated that the idea was to encourage the administration to take action to address student concerns.
“[The objective was to] show that this is an important issue to students and we [wanted] to do something that [would] lead to quick action, rather than a long bureaucratic process.”
The students collected 252 signatures indicating student support for its content. Meyer said that the main reason for the document’s popularity was the fact that it posed questions rather than demands.
Meyer also spoke about the administration's response to the petition and explained that although the administration found the requests to be reasonable, there was discomfort about how concerns were raised. The administration felt several steps had been skipped and that the drafting of a petition should have been the last step, not the first one.
Dean of Residential Education Kenneth Grcich expressed his disappointment on how student concerns were brought up to administration.
“Unfortunately, I was never afforded the opportunity to meet with any of the [petition’s] authors to discuss the concerns expressed in the petition, which honestly is unfair and disappointing,” wrote Grcich.
The petition was discussed at the latest General Assembly.
"At the GA, we did decide to adopt some of the values that were expressed in some parts of it. Especially in the first point, that was the part that most people signed on to,” said Vice President of Student Government and senior Alex Nyikos.
Nyikos stressed that the petition was not a Student Government initiative; it was an individual document that a number of people, including members of Student Government, had signed.
When asked if administration had a process to respond to the presented student concerns, Grcich wrote that they welcomed forthcoming dialogue and indicated that:
“[Myself], Donna Eddleman and Dave Tinagero met with the Executive Boards of [Inter-Residence Hall Council] and [Student Government] to discuss the evolution of the petition as well as its content. Following that meeting [Donna and I] asked for a meeting with Student Government and IRHC to discuss next steps to addressing the issues, to include ‘deliverables’ and a timeline for completion.”
Officer of Communications and senior Olivia Bergen explained that Student Government created a task force to address student concerns.
“Given significant student interest and concern around Residential Education policies, Student Government adopted into its agenda the five requests for clarification and change expressed in the student petition delivered to the administration over fall break. In order to determine the policies that students wanted to see changed, Student Government formed the Res Ed policy task force, a temporary body that could meet rapidly and determine what policy changes students would request from the administration.”
The conclusions and policy language drafts about the issues identified at the task force’s first meeting can be seen in the minutes of the meeting.
“[We] identified two major issues as the highest priority — entry of student rooms and the definition of ‘paraphernalia’ as related to alcohol and drug use,” Bergen said.
Regarding student privacy and door-opening policies, the point in the petition that received the most student support, Grcich indicated that students should not open their door to individuals who fail to appropriately identify themselves.
“For their own safety and the safety of those living in the apartment, students should refuse entry to anyone who does not identify themselves or provide sufficient grounds for ‘non-notified’ entry.”
According to Meyer, Res Ed is working on creating a policy for advanced notice about an RA visiting a student’s room.
Meyer said that the second point of the petition, about RA rounds before quiet hours, “was born perhaps [due to] a factual misinformation in that I was told that the rounds before quiet hours and the rounds after quiet hours have never resulted in an enforcement of quiet hours or courtesy hours.” So far, only complaints have led to gatherings being shut down.
Res Ed hoped to collaborate with Campus Life, Student Government and IRHC to try and address the concerns some students have articulated.
“If achieving this goal means expanding the current set of policies, we will certainly consider doing so,” wrote Grcich.
Grcich also elaborated on the upcoming Student Handbook.
“[What] students should aspire to have is a document that articulates expectations in the context of [UAE] federal law, the UAE government and the norms of our community. The document should also outline how violations of the outlined expectations will be addressed.”
Grcich stressed that he hopes the handbook will be the result of a collaborative team of students and staff and encourages campus conversation about the issue.
Pablo Pacareu is a staff writer. Email him at 
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