Junior Daren Venable may have been found not guilty for the murder of fellow UR student Jeffrey Bordeaux, Jr. in the Monroe County Court system on April 20, but the lasting effects that have emerged because of this tragedy are truly significant.
After Bordeaux’s death, UR President Joel Seligman charged Senior Vice President and General Counsel Sue Stewart with conducting an internal review on the University to subsequently take measures to assure that violent acts such as this do not happen in the future.
The resulting product, entitled “Report to President Joel Seligman Concerning Student Death on Campus” and credited to Stewart, Director of Risk Management Spencer Studwell, Senior Counel Richard Crummins and Senior Counsel Deirdre Flynn, was released to the public on July 27. It contains six sections discussing Bordeaux’s death and the events that followed, as well as background information on the incident.
The report analyzes the incident and the University’s response, among other details, concluding with a set of 23 recommendations for the University.
“It’s times like [this], I guess, that the [University] motto becomes real for us,” Dean of Students Matthew Burns explained. “You constantly look at ways to make the campus better whether or not in this specific incident we could have done anything differently.”
The recommendations are directed at a number of sections of the University, but quite a few are aimed towards policies that affect the well-being of UR students.
“The recommendations all stem from the desire to make the campus a safer place,” Burns explained.
One of the most important changes, according to Burns, is the redefinition of weapons to include all knives. If a student is now caught in possession of any knife (cooking knives being the exception), there is a presumption of suspension for one academic year.
An action can be made to weaken or strengthen the punishment according to the circumstances of the situation — there are understandably differences between the reaction to a pocket knife and a 12-inch blade.
A similar adjustment has been made concerning physical violence — according to Burns, those who are involved in a physical altercation should assume a suspension is warranted.
“I would expect it to be the exception if one doesn’t,” he said.
Physical violence can be an easy catch, but how can students expect these new weapons policies to be enforced?
“I don’t think you can enforce something like that, and in the few cases where you do, it’s going to be unfair to those students because it’s not enforced across the whole student body,” junior Michael Dymond said.
But all is not lost, it seems.
“It’s [as] enforceable as we are knowledgeable about it,” Burns said. “I’m not looking at people to be tattletales or anything like that, but I am looking at them to self-enforce the standards of our community.”
The event registration process is also shifting things around and these changes did not come out of thin air. These adjustments have already been in the works for a year, being drafted by an event registration task force led by Assistant Dean of Students Morgan Levy.
The new system will have an increased coherency and be more streamlined.
The process is explained on a section of the website of the Office of the Dean of Students. It goes over the criteria of an event that needs to be registered, how to register events and when to register an event. It also includes a list of related forms and links to the web pages of possible venues such as the Interfaith Chapel and the Community Learning Center.
So what does this mean for student organizations?
Dymond, who works as an R.A. and is the deputy treasurer of the Students’ Association and a member of Delta Upsilon, had some concerns.
“It’s very concerning to me that every campus group now has to register events of all sorts and … that there’s also a committee that does event registration,” he said.
Since there is a new timeline and a new process for registering events, organizations may run into roadblocks which they have avoided in the past.
“That’s probably more an indication that they haven’t quite adapted to the new system than any reality that we would just say no,” Burns explained. “The system is not set up to say no to more events.”
In addition to these three policy adjustments, there are plans to have a Graduate Head Resident (GHR) live in each house, including academic living centers and on the Fraternity Quad. Burns explained that implementation of this policy could begin as early as this year, whenever there is space available in the houses and enough candidates to choose from.
These GHRs will act not necessarily as authority figures, but as guides or mentors to their residents. They will also continue emphasizing and identifying problems before the situation gets out of control.
The true effects of these changes are yet to be seen, of course.
“At the beginning I don’t see these particular changes really dramatically affecting most students’ lives, so I don’t think most students frankly are going to care about them,” Burns said. “It may mildly agree, it may mildly disagree, but I don’t think it’s going to affect their day-to-day life.”
Take Five Scholar James Robbins was also unsure if the new policies will have a hugely visible impact on the student body.
“I think it probably won’t make a huge difference … but it’ll make small differences … that’ll have huge effects,” he said.
Goldin is a member of the class of 2013.