Fredonia State College has revised a new provision in its code of conduct after some students and faculty complained that the policy appeared to require students to inform on their peers.
Critics had said the policy was vague and broadly written. In response, Fredonia officials, working with faculty and student leaders, altered the policy to emphasize that it applies only to the most serious cases.
The new rule, passed by the University Senate this week, also states that students can leave a bad situation if they do not want to turn in a friend.
"I think all the changes made will clarify the policy and reassure students that we don't intend to be heavy-handed with this policy," said David Herman, Fredonia State vice president for student affairs.
Critics of the provision say that the changes are a good first step but that flaws remain. "They made changes that will really quiet down the masses, but I still don't think they've gone far enough. Essentially, it's the same," said Nicholas Thayer, business manager of the Leader student newspaper.
School officials say the policy was drafted to clarify the responsibilities of a student who witnesses a crime or is caught in some other complicated situation. The original code stated in part that students "will be considered in violation if they fail to remove themselves from situations and/or report the incident to proper authorities."
This semester, students complained that they had not had a chance to weigh in on the provision before it was put in place. Some students said the rule seemed to require them to report minor violations, such as underage drinking.
College officials defended the provision, but the criticism and media coverage sparked a series of meetings on the policy.
College President Dennis L. Hefner, after talking about the policy with the members of his student cabinet, agreed to support some changes to the language of the provision.
The new rule, as approved by the senate, states that students must "witness serious violations" of policy that are "potentially harmful to the safety and well-being of other students." Those include drug dealing, hazing and hate crimes, said Christine Davis Mantai, a Fredonia State spokeswoman.
Also, instead of saying that those students "will be considered" in violation, the students now "may be" considered in violation if they do not report it or leave the situation. The reporting is not required.
Students now would be charged with a violation of the honor code.