North Texas Daily

Spring 2018 policy updates include changes to harassment, disability policies

Spring 2018 policy updates include changes to harassment, disability policies

April 24
18:50 2018

The UNT Policy Office has updated the university’s sexual harassment policy to comply with Texas law and updated the disability accommodation policy to make the Office of Disability Accommodation “the clearinghouse for all decisions regarding student accommodations,” according to the policy website.

“[The ODA] is the clearinghouse for issues of, particularly, the academic accommodations for students,” said Joanne Woodard, vice president for institutional equity and diversity. “Those are the ones that we get questions on most often, in terms of making sure students have what they need in order to participate fully in the academic environment.”

The changes are part of the per-semester updates to UNT policies for spring 2018. The university notified students about the changes via email.

“The University Policy Office, in collaboration with policy owners, aids in the development, review, approval and maintenance of university-wide policies,” the email read. “Since the fall update, the policy office has modified, added or deleted 26 policies.”

Kinesiology freshman Leah Dawson said she vaguely remembers receiving the email about spring policy updates and that she supports the regular updates.

“It needs to be updated because we change as the years go on,” Dawson said. “[You] have to consistently [be] like, ‘OK, this isn’t useful anymore, but [that] might be useful.’”

Spring 2018 policy changes

The university created a sick leave donation policy, which allows eligible employees to voluntarily give other eligible employees their sick leave. It deleted a number of policies due to duplication or incorporation into other policies.

Texas law SB 969 prompted a change in UNT’s sexual harassment policy. The law, which “relates to requiring certain public and private institutions of higher education to provide amnesty to students who report certain incidents” led to a change in the way UNT defines harassment.

“Most of the changes were done to comply with the definitions that were provided by the legislature in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board around sexual harassment and making sure that we had the explicit definitions as they related in the educational context as well as in the employment context,” Woodard said.

The university also updated its Nondiscrimination/Equal Opportunity policy in response to a state law, SB 968, which requires higher education institutions to provide students and employees with an electronic option in reporting certain offenses.

“All policies at the university get on a cycle of review,” Woodard said. “We frequently review all policies to make sure that the policies are all consistent and you don’t have verbiage that is different in all the policies.”

Policy change process

“There’s a policy that requires the review [of policy] by the policy owner every six years,” said Stephanie McDonald, a policy manager in the UNT Policy Office. “[There may be a] change in process or in the function of the policy, there may be a change in state or federal law … those are typically big reasons for changes.”

When a policy is determined to need change, a policy working group made up of different representatives from different divisions on campus evaluates its functions and day-to-day operations according to McDonald.

“Then we have our policy advising group that’s made up of higher level VPs,” McDonald said. “And they review just to be sure that it fits with the mission and the direction of the institution.”

Following an evaluation from the Office of General Counsel for “legal sufficiency” according to McDonald, the new or updated policy is sent to the President’s Office for final approval.

In terms of student involvement in policy revisions, McDonald said the voice of the students is reached through the Student Government Association.

“If it’s a policy that directly affects students, then we send that over to the student government office for their review and response,” McDonald said. “That response is taken to the policy advisory group for them to consider in their consideration of the policy.”

All the spring policy updates can be seen on the UNT Policy Office’s website.

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Lizzy Spangler

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