Photo by Joey Bui/The Gazelle

Community Code up for student vote

Photo by Joey Bui/The Gazelle Since its release to the student body, the NYUAD Community Code is now subject to a student vote that will determine ...

Apr 20, 2013

Photo by Joey Bui/The Gazelle
Since its release to the student body, the NYUAD Community Code is now subject to a student vote that will determine whether or not it will be enforced.
A Town Hall meeting was held on Saturday, April 20 for a Question and Answer session about the Community Code. Eight students were in attendance, as well as Associate Director of Student Life Dave Tinagero. Students at the Town Hall meeting were concerned that the Community Code would infringe upon student self-governance.
Student Government President Leah Reynolds introduced the Community Code by attaching it in an email to students on April 12. The document includes the Community Code of Conduct, which describes the values that community members should uphold.
These values include finding compromise, respecting others' property and fostering the spirit of inclusiveness.
The Code also proposes a Community Council, which is a body that would uphold, inspire and promote the principles outlined in the Community Code. The Council’s duties include deciding on disciplinary action.
Since its introduction, the Community Code has been met with differing opinions. Sophomore Mastewal Taddese was pleased with the final draft.
“It is carefully written in that it puts weight on seemingly intuitive principles that are often overlooked in daily interactions and on campus,” she said.
However, some students found that the Community Code was too general.
“The Community Code fails in its weakness and generality and verbosity; no student will even remember what the code says,” said 2016 class representative Lingliang Zhang. “What does it say about a community who doesn't even know what their own Community Code says?”
The questions raised at the Town Hall meeting also indicated that the Code is unclear to some students. Students asked for explanations about the role, structure and hierarchy of the Community Council.
Sophomore Sachi Leith initially said that she did not read the Code. Upon further questioning, she explained that she had read it, but found it difficult to gauge a substantial purpose or message.
“I did read the Code, but I didn't understand it,” Leith said. “I also didn't know why somebody had to write this, because I don't see what it does for anyone.”
Freshman Soichiro Haittori had a similar response.
“I read it, and there's nothing wrong with it because it doesn't say anything,” Haittori said.
Freshman Daniel Brown criticized the Community Code's “lack of substance.”
Zhang explained that there are problems with allowing the Community Code to pass because of these issues identified by students.
“If we are to enact this weak honor code, it removes space in the future for creating a strong code that actually has an impact on bringing together the community,” he said.
Former Student Government President, junior Brett Bolton, discussed the Code's implications in student self-governance.
“I don’t think the Code and Council offer much in the direction of self-governance,” he said. “If you look at the effective procedural outline, the chances of the Council ever making a decision are slim, to say the least.”
Bolton said that he ultimately does not see the current version of the proposed document providing anything more than what the current elected representatives are already capable of offering.
“If anything, this system might actually limit the strides the students and administration have already taken toward student self-governance by limiting jurisdiction of current institutions that are directly representative of and beholden to the student body,” he said.
At the Town Hall meeting, junior Andrew Pitts raised the concern that the Community Council would defer too much power to the Dean of Students.
“The Dean of Students is tied to every step of the process, but that is the system that we already have in place,” replied Reynolds. “If there is an issue with the Dean of Students, we have channels for appeal. Students can talk to [Vice Chancellor of NYUAD] Al Bloom, for example.”
Bolton and Pitts continued to question the Community Council’s accountability. Unlike the Student Government, the Community Council is not necessarily accountable to the student body. Although the Council is student-elected, members on the Council can serve as long as they choose, unless dismissed by the Dean of Students.
“The Community Code provides students with alternative avenues for dealing with problems,” said sophomore Olivia Bergen. “This might not be everyone’s ideal of student self-governance, but it is a step in that direction.”
Zhang suggested that a succinct honor code would more powerfully shapes a student community because it can be called upon easily and effectively. Compared to the 388-word Community Code of Conduct at NYUAD, the Honor Code at the California Institute of Technology, for example, is 18 words:
"No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community.”
“We have some very special aspects of our community right now, there is a great deal of trust and a feeling of inclusion. If we don't have some sort of strong honor or community code to hold this together, as we expand, this type of community will be lost,” Zhang said.
But sophomore Taddese suggested that a more succinct or binding Code could be problematic.
“The challenge would have been for the code to list down agreed-upon terms and conditions of behavior expected from all members of the community. That would have led to murky grounds and controversial interpretations,” she said.
Zhang also expressed concern that freshmen were not involved in the drafting of the Code.
“I've inquired about the Community Code several times throughout my term, and never has anyone released anything or given any opportunity for any freshmen voice to be heard,”' he said.
As a freshman, Sam Ridgeway was unable to participate in the Code revision.
“Freshmen weren't involved for this revision, so hopefully they can provide input for the next in order for the Community Code to represent the whole community,” Ridgeway said.
The Community Code does allow for amendments to be made, however only if approved by the legal department.
If the Community Code does not pass the upcoming vote, the Community Code Committee will dissolve. Both criticizers and supporters of the Community Code encourage strong student participation in the vote.
“If people don't take part in voting, that undermines the idea of student self-governance,” Reynolds said.
Zhang also believes that lack of participation is detrimental to student efforts to shape the university.
“'My biggest concern is with apathy, members not knowing about what it is, or reading the code, and just voting yes by default,” said Zhang.
Student Government Vice President and sophomore Corey Meyer said that low student turnout at the Town Hall does not mean that students are not well-informed about the Code.
“We continue to answer a lot of questions by email and in person,” Meyer said.
Junior Jessica Tattersall is currently studying abroad in London and plans to take an active role in the development of the Community Code. Tattersall planned to live-stream the Town Hall meeting, but due to technical issues, the Town Hall was not broadcasted as originally planned.
Some students are less enthusiastic about the Community Code and have not looked at the document at all. Freshman Krishan Mistry had trouble finding the text of the Community Code.
“I saw a bunch of documents that were telling me how important the Code was, but where are the actual rules?” Mistry said.
Reynolds said that voting would take place in early May before the end of Spring semester.
Joey Bui is copy editor. Email her at
gazelle logo