Photo by Jourdan Enriquez/The Gazelle
On April 10, the NYUAD Community Code was made public after a little more than a year since its initial proposal.
One of the guiding missions behind the Community Code, originally known as the Honor Code, was to give students the opportunity for self-governance, a privilege deemed important by the student body as a whole. The Code stipulates the different values of NYUAD as an institution, as well as outlines a judicial peer review system and a procedure for any possible future amendments.
The Community Code introduces an alternative to administrative discipline; up until this point, students have been operating under the assumption that any problems or violations of student conduct must be handled by the administration.
Now, students who would rather take a different disciplinary route can subject certain discipline cases to the judgment of their peers.
As stipulated by the Community Code, an elected Community Council — consisting of a chair, vice-chair and one representative from each grade — will handle any disciplinary matters that a student wishes to undergo peer review.
The Code was crafted by an elected group of students as well as advisors from the administration. Both sides were engaged in constant dialogue in order to ensure that the code was sustainable and efficient while remaining flexible to any future student requests and adjustments that may become necessary.
As a representative of the student body, junior and former Student Government president Brett Bolton sat in on pitch meetings to observe and participate in the drafting process.
“I was the needle in the side, I think,” Bolton said. “We had two sets of meetings. [The Committee] had their own work sessions and then there were meetings when they met with kind of the stakeholders: Dean of Students Julie Avina, [Associate Dean of Students] Ken Grcich and [Deputy Dean of Students] David Tinagero. I sat in as a representative of the student body to give feedback. There was a pitch meeting every week and those would also turn into workshops where we’d bounce ideas off each other.”
The Committee, which consisted of seven elected students, met several times a week for two to three hours at a time.
“We would schedule our meetings at the most random times — 7 a.m. early mornings, Thursday and Saturday nights, several times a week — in order to be able to cope with academic and extracurricular responsibilities at the same time,” said junior Florencia Schlamp.
Not only did members of the Committee have to balance their duties with other aspects of Student Life, but the actual process of drafting the Code proved to be an intensive time commitment. In order to ensure that the Code was as thorough and detailed as possible, members of the Committee had to carve out large chunks of time from their schedules in order to meet.
“At one point we engaged in a six-hour power meeting in which the committee and key administrators participated, lasting until 3 a.m.,” said sophomore Benjamin Jance. “Sounds crazy to some, but we were and continue to be wholeheartedly engaged in producing an unprecedented self-governance system for our fellow students.”
Junior and President of Student Government Leah Reynolds, who served as a member of the Committee, said that much of the process was driven by student involvement and interaction with the entire NYUAD community.
“[The Committee] shared some drafts and had several open meetings and various town hall forums to discuss the Code and what people wanted from it,” she said.
Deputy Dean of Students Dave Tinagero, an advisor who provided feedback during the process, echoed a similar sentiment.
“I believe it was a major priority for the committee to engage with the community at large. They provided a number of venues — town halls, office hours, etc. — to get as much feedback as possible throughout their design process.”
After a month and a half of drafting, reviewing and discussing the Code, the document was sent to administrators on both the Abu Dhabi and New York campus so that it could be approved by the legal department.
Although it was a long stretch of time before the document would be made public to the student body, members of the Committee were willing to endure such a waiting period if it meant the Code returning polished and refined.
“The approval process is important,” Reynolds said. “We want [the Code] to be a long term thing that is agreeable to all the administrative parties so that it’s a legacy for the institution.”
During the drafting process, the committee drew upon Honor Codes of other institutions for ideas and inspiration.
“As there had been no undertaking like this one at NYUAD before, there was also a great deal of research to be done especially understanding models of Honor Codes at other universities and the reasons for their rules,” said junior Mohammed Omar, the chair of the Committee. “I was happy to work with a team so dedicated and talented, and grateful to have learnt so much from them in my role as the Chair."
Bolton mentioned that certain idiosyncrasies of living in Abu Dhabi also presented a constant source of discussion.
“In the States, when something happens on campus, schools have first take on whatever’s happening,” said Bolton. “Here, schools have first take but it’s also more of a sensitive matter. So that was something to take into consideration. The administration brought in perspective from that, which students wouldn’t have otherwise because we don’t engage in that dialogue and interaction with the outside government.”
According to Associate Dean of Students Ken Grcich, such considerations gave a unique and original identity to the Code.
“The Honor Code was created by NYUAD students for NYUAD students,” Grcich said. “It was not tailored from a previous code but originated here in Abu Dhabi.”
As the Code passes into the public sphere, the Committee awaits student reaction. A General Assembly will take place today, April 14, in addition to a public Town Hall that will be taking place on April 20. During these two forums, the student body can further discuss the document and raise any questions they may have.
“It’s nice that it’s finally out,” said sophomore Laura Evans, upon receiving the email with the attached Code. “I’m pretty happy with what it looks like. I know there were a lot of questions when the idea of it was first proposed about what it was going to look like and I think it fits the community pretty well.”
Zoe Hu is deputy news editor. Email her at email@example.com.