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ISSUE 117 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/21/2003

Issues brought before Regents

By Jean Mullins
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 21, 2003

The St. Olaf Board of Regents held the first of four meetings during the academic year Oct. 2 and 3. While this meeting usually takes place behind closed doors, St. Olaf students present their concerns through the Board of Regents Student Committee (BORSC).

It is the job of this committee to report to the Board of Regents on issues of concern for St. Olaf students. The Board of Regents responds to major student issues, fulfilling more than administrative and financial duties.

On Oct. 2, BORSC presented three major student issues to the Board: the St. Olaf sexual assault policy, computer access at St. Olaf, and the future of the nursing major.

The St. Olaf sexual assault policy was revised last spring by Dean Greg Kneser, last year’s BORSC committee and representatives from the Women’s Safe House and SARN.

"There were a lot of loose ends that needed to be brought together," said Greta Goerss ‘04, the Board of Regents student sbserver and chair of BORSC.

The policy was rewritten to specifically address concerns about legal issues and accessibility. In a report given out at the October meeting, BORSC stated, "The first goal was to make the policy more effective in resolving sexual assault cases on campus."

On Oct. 2, BORSC reported the changes that last spring’s committee had made. The Regents were receptive to the changes and had no concerns regarding the new policy.

BORSC recommended the school update to a T1 cable for greater accessibility, and the Board of Regents made the funds available to update. At the October meeting, BORSC reported on the improved speed and accessibility of Internet connections on campus.

BORSC also spoke with the Board of Regents on the unfolding events concerning the illegal downloading of copyrighted music off the Internet.

On the topic of illegal file sharing, the Board of Regents "raised quite a bit of concern about the prevalence of illegal downloading on campus and the lack of concern by students over legal issues," said Lindsay Boetcher ‘06, a BORSC public relations committee member, in a statement released on the October meeting.

"They are concerned that students don’t see it as stealing," said Goerss. "To them it is such a black and white issue and students see it as a gray issue."

Dean of Students Greg Kneser made students aware of possible repercussions for downloading copyrighted music illegally this fall in an e-mail. With the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) targeting college students with lawsuits, St. Olaf is increasingly concerned that a St. Olaf student will be sued next.

BORSC also updated the Board of Regents on computer usage across campus, as well as the campus’s response to the MS Blaster Worm virus, which struck campus as students began to arrive on campus for the new school year.

The final topic of discussion was the future of the nursing major. BORSC represented student concerns over the cancellation of the major. The college has concerns about the major due to its expense and about the safety of students driving off campus to clinics. The students presented the case that the nursing major embodies all aspects of the St. Olaf mission statement.

In the written report given out at the Oct. 2 meeting, BORSC stated, "Given the current shortage of nurses and the college’s commitment to service, members of the student body feel that the discontinuance of the nursing program would be in conflict with the mission of this school."

BORSC also called the Board of Regents’ attention to the fact that more people want to be nursing majors than are allowed in the program and that there is a long tradition of nursing at St. Olaf. The nursing program has been offered at St. Olaf since 1956.

The Board of Regents were "very receptive" to the concerns of the students, according to Goerss. President Thomforde appointed a task force to look into the feasibility of the nursing major in the future and reported back on Nov. 1. He will make his recommendation to the Board of Regents at their December meeting.

The Board will then make a decision to either cancel the nursing major or change it to accommodate new demands. Some possible changes include increasing the number of students allowed in the program or building a consortium with other schools.

Announcements will be made about their decisions regarding student-related issues at the Board’s December meeting.

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