Lauren Hoekstra- Staff Writer
Although often quoted, many students on Dordt’s campus do not understand what the student handbook signifies or where it comes from. However, the rules in all Dordt handbooks (faculty, staff, and student) govern the actions of everyone involved at Dordt.
According to Robert Taylor, vice president for student success and dean of students, the student handbook has not changed much in recent years. It is a document that has stood the test of time. Recent major changes include an upgrade to Title IX rules in order to comply with federal regulations, an addition to the section on animals allowed at Dordt to include Emotional Support Animals, and policy on e-cigarettes.
In contrast, the faculty handbook is revised every year in August. To get something changed in the faculty handbook, changes must go through different processes depending on which chapter of the handbook is being revised. Certain faculty members are responsible for different areas in the handbook and a concern must first go to the appropriate person before recommendation to the Academic Senate.
The handbooks are “dynamic documents,” according to Howard Wilson, vice president for university operations. They are reviewed so that they do not become overly specific to the point where every issue breaks a rule.
Leah Zuidema, vice president for academic affairs, believes treating one another with courtesy and respect goes a long way regarding rules. If the group functions based on this, no need exists to spell out ‘don’t slap your neighbor,’ or ‘don’t swear at your neighbor’ because both simply fall under the ‘treat your neighbor with courtesy and respect’ guideline.
The faculty handbook contains every rule faculty members are expected to abide by. This includes curricular policies, such as how long student records of grades or exams are held, changes to courses that Dordt offers, and academic policies that include office hours and hiring practices. Also, sections in the faculty handbook hyperlink over to the staff handbook for topics including insurance and retirement options.
Most of the changes made to the handbooks primarily come from external sources rather than internal ones. As Dordt receives Title IV funds (including student loans and Pell grants), Dordt is required to comply with federal regulations.
Since the elimination of the provost position, and the addition of many different new titles to fill the role, several concepts needed to be changed in the handbook. Over the summer, Zuidema worked on changing chapter four of the faculty handbook, which focuses on the hiring process, and approached the Academic Senate with a document showing all the changes she had made as well as a rationale document describing the importance of each change..
If the rules are broken either in the faculty or staff handbook, the action of the overseeing party depends on which handbook rule was broken.
“They want to be a part of a community that works in that way,” Zuidema said. “If in good conscience you see yourself going in a different way [than the Dordt standards], it is a requirement for you to speak up.”
Taylor lamented that, over time, the handbook has begun looking more like a legal document than anything else. Since the world has changed over the years, there has become more of a need for clearer rules for people to behave accordingly.
This summer, in order for students to return for the fall semester, some new guidelines had to be made. After many hours of meetings, the Roadmap for Reopening was created and announced to the greater Dordt community. Some colleges have 90+ pages of documents regarding specific actions that students/faculty/staff should and should not take. The Roadmap for Reopening is readable in half an hour.
“A roadmap helps in the way that if you come upon construction or have to change course a bit, you can see the other roads and ways to go.” Wilson said.
Even when students do end up on the wrong side of the rules, Taylor commented that it is his personal goal to make sure that students feel loved throughout the process. Although the rules may seem set in stone, Taylor loves having conversations with students about the rules.
“I want to… make it less about rules and terms and more about who God is calling [the student] to be and how does this rule help [them] live that out,” Taylor said. “I want them to look in the mirror and ask who they are and who God is calling them to be.”