by Denise Devaney | Social Media Editor
Over Christmas break, a new Pet Policy was sent out in an email to the Faculty of PC. There have been many questions raised about this new policy, and many are not happy about it. Here is what the policy says:
“Presbyterian College supports the ability of students, faculty, and staff to have service animals or approved assistance animals on campus, and it welcomes members of the campus community and the local community to bring animals on campus property. Presbyterian College must, however, consider the maintenance and upkeep of campus facilities and the interaction of animals with members of the campus community.
To this end, Presbyterian College provides the following policy for management of pets and animals on campus. This policy supersedes all previous statements, policies, or practices regarding pets and animals on campus.
The following policy guidelines become effective on January 1, 2018.
Service Animals and/or Approved Assistance Animals: The Office of Residence Life will maintain all policies related to housing service animals and/or approved assistance animals in campus facilities. Such policies may be found in the Garnet Book or other appropriate documents. The Department of Athletics will maintain all policies related to service animals and/or approved assistance animals visiting or located in athletic facilities.
Pets or Other Animals: Notwithstanding the above guidelines, pets or other animals are permitted on campus property under the following conditions:
- All pets or other animals must remain in outdoor areas open to the public. Pets are prohibited from remaining in campus facilities or being housed in academic, administrative, or athletic areas.
- All pets or other animals on campus, whether in indoor or outdoor areas, must be controlled by a harness or leash not to exceed sixteen (16) feet in length.
- Pet owners are responsible for cleaning up after pets and for ensuring all pet waste is properly disposed.
- Pet owners are responsible for damage to College property and for injury to others caused by their pets.
- The College reserves the right to prohibit any pet owner who violates these policies from bringing a pet on campus.
- The Department of Athletics will maintain all policies related to prohibition of pets in athletic facilities, whether in indoor or outdoor venues.
Any exceptions to these policies must be approved by the Vice President for Finance and Administration or the Executive Director for Campus Services.”
“I am very disappointed in the decision on a couple of levels,” Christian Education professor Dr. Rebecca Davis said.
Davis, who is currently on sabbatical, has been known to bring her dog to class as a way to bring optimism. “Having a well-behaved dog available for pastoral care improved the quality of life on campus for many students, faculty, and staff. My own dog, a trained therapy dog, had regular office hours and attended each class once a week.”
Davis made sure her students were okay with having a dog in class, “Every semester, the students in my classes were given an opportunity to anonymously indicate, in writing, if he or she was okay with the dog coming to class occasionally. If even one person was uncomfortable, the dog did not come to class.”
She believes having her dog on campus benefited the students. “Students, whom I did not have for class, would come by and ask to pet and love on the dog and would leave feeling better about life and being at PC. Quite frankly, we are in a season of life at PC where every little positive experience helps with overall satisfaction with campus life.”
“[I’m also disappointed in] the process in which the decision was made. As far as I know, it was made without widespread input from students, faculty, or a committee to study the matter. If there was a problem, the pet owner, again as far as I know since no one ever approached me, was never contacted and given an opportunity to rectify any problem.”
Davis tried to make sure that bringing her dog would not be a hassle to anyone else. “I know that I kept a cordless vacuum on hand to pick up any extra dog hair that was shed. I also spoke with the cleaning staff in my building and was told they enjoyed having her, and she was not a problem. The process certainly could have been handled in a more egalitarian manner.”
“I did appreciate the Provost’s respect and care when he gave those of us who occasionally brought our dog to campus a heads up that the President’s Council had made this decision and would soon be sent out campus wide.”
Theatre professor Lesley Preston was also affected by the policy change.
“I heard about it before Christmas because Dr. Raber knew that I would bring Cissy [her dog] to campus sometimes, so he just sent it to me ahead of time to let me know that it was coming. I was upset because I’ve had Cissy, she is now three, and ever since I got her she’s been able to come when daycare is closed or on the weekends when we’re doing play rehearsals and things like that, and I worked on training her so she’s good, and people seem to like her being there; nobody ever looked scared of her.”
Preston understands a policy is needed for the faculty, but felt it impacted her negatively, “I understand there might be a need for a policy, but I was a little taken aback that it happened so quickly, and I’m assuming there was [something that motivated the making of the policy] that made that happen, but nobody has really shared that with us.”
The policy affected Preston pretty quickly into the semester. “ It didn’t really hit home until the second weekend of the semester when we had a visiting group come to the theater to do a workshop in town with our students, and we worked [all weekend,” Preston said. “And then I suddenly realized ‘Oh, I have to do something for Cissy,’ so I called the Brents, who’s dog is best friends with Cissy, and asked if I could leave Cissy with them and [pick her up after rehearsals], but they realized it would be easier to leave her for the weekend. I didn’t see her all weekend, and that [was upsetting for me]. It’s going to happen again when we go into rehearsal for the play; it’s those times that I started to think if there was some way we could address this.”
Preston feels there is some adjusting that is necessary for the new policy, “I’m going to meet with Dr. Raber and let him know I’ve worked on some changes to the language and run them by him and see if the administration would take it up without us doing anything more, or [else] the next step then would be to do a petition and send it out and have faculty members sign it in support of it. I’ve decided to not accept this policy yet. I understand they want to protect the new buildings, probably new Neville had something to do with it, but maybe there’s some way we can work out [this policy] to make everybody happy.”
“You know, I didn’t bring her to class much, but students always asked if I was bringing Cissy to class again or sometime soon. Cissy knew so many students on campus because they would stop by and pat her. [I think it’s beneficial] especially for people who left their pets at home and are missing them. I know when I travel I end up petting stray dogs all over the place whenever I don’t bring my dog. For pet people, I think it’s nice [to have a dog in the classroom]. I think the students really appreciate it. In fact, I had two to volunteer to sign the petition already, [and I had to tell them that] I don’t have a petition yet.”
Preston plans on starting a petition to challenge the new policy. “But, I also want to give the administration a chance to respond [to my ideas of adjustment to the policy] without a petition before we have to go that far. I don’t know how many people on campus have their own pets. I don’t know if that’s part of what precipitated this because we haven’t really heard anything about the why.”
Preston’s last comment to the administration was a plea for collaboration. “I would just ask if they’ve thought of a way to let people weigh in and work collaboratively on amending the policy.”
“I did try really hard to train Cissy to be a good come-to-work dog so she knows she’s not the center of attention, like when she comes to rehearsals, she stays in her little bed [instead of] being home alone. I’m looking into [training Cissy to become a therapy dog, but I thought] we could at least do canine good citizen testing so the canine would have to pass the canine good citizenship. I thought it would be a good volunteer outreach to bring therapy dogs to Thornwell for the kids and Presbyterian home, and we can start a new student organization [for training therapy dogs].”
Joy Smith and Drew Peterson of Campus Life were involved in the making of the policy.
Peterson explained how the first policy was created for students.
“When it comes to animals on campus, there’s three distinctions and types of animals: there is service animals (seizure dogs and seeing-eye dogs), there’s assistance animals, which is the category where emotional support animals would come into, and then there’s pets. When it comes to campuses, very few campuses anywhere allow pets because you have to worry about people’s allergies and medical accommodations. Assistance animals are a medical accommodation, and because we accept federal funds, for loans, grants, and those sort of things, our housing is partially considered federal housing, so you have the American with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act that we have to take into account when we’re doing student housing. If the student has a documented disability, what alleviates that disability is having an emotional support animal; we have to allow assistance animals in our housing. That’s where you’ll see some animals on campus, but those aren’t pets, so it’s not technically part of the pet policy, and obviously service animals are allowed to go wherever they want to on campus.”
He explained that service animals are allowed to go into any building, while assistance animals are only allowed in a student’s residence or outside. Pets, with this new policy, are not allowed in any buildings.
Smith then addressed why the policy wasn’t sent out to students, “There was not an intention to not give the students a pet policy, but the students already have a policy that applied to students. Where there was a void for the rest of the campus, faculty and staff.”
“There was no such thing as a pet policy, and over time, we’ve had different individuals in this building where we had to have a policy that said only under the conditions of service animals, can pets be allowed into the building, partially because of food, fitness, and just the amount of people that come and go into the building, some safety, definitely some maintenance, and some housekeeping kinds of issues that were coming up with animals that were coming and going. Building by building, the campus was beginning to have little pet policies, and so the academic buildings became a question, partially because of maintenance issues and also again those individuals who are not students who may come across the campus, going back and forth and have pets with them, and we created the policy to say, ‘you can’t do these things’,” Smith said.
There had been incidences that caught their attention. Smith said, “I think in the last year we’ve had two reports of students who have been bitten by an animal, and a couple of other things that didn’t indicate huge problems yet, but did say, ‘you better write something down to contain this so that it doesn’t get to be a big campus problem’. That’s how the pet policy started, and then getting the information of what to write in the pet policy.”
It took eleven people on the campus leadership team and others to put this policy together. Smith said, “Drew helped us, but he’s the director of Residence Life, so he wasn’t trying to write the campus wide pet policy by himself, but Drew and others who worked on some other campuses that are private colleges pulled in some policies, suggested some different policies, and basically put it together and gave it to the leadership team to decide whether to approve it or not, and they approved it, believing there needed to be some kind of pet policy for the campus.” Drew made sure the policy was consistent with the student pet policy.
Peterson wanted to clarify that the policy was put in place in consideration for those with allergie. “It’s not a lack of love for animals; I had dogs growing up in the house, [and] I love cats. I love pets in general but thinking [in terms of] the residents’ halls, every student needs to be afforded the right to live there. People who have allergies also have classes in academic buildings. They come here to eat in Springs; they go down to Templeton to go to basketball games, and if we don’t have something that talks about what is and isn’t allowed, we’re not affording those people their rights as students either.”
Smith elaborated more on pet allergies with a story about her niece, “I’ve had cats before, and I have a niece who is allergic to cats, and she literally cannot come visit us at our house without throwing up. What I know is that once you have the pet around, there isn’t a way to remove it from being around. Its presence is around even when you’re not, so even though we talk about our offices, there’s no way for me to get the pet into this office without bringing it through either the elevator, the staircase, through the lobby center, etc., so everywhere that I am moving my animal, I’m moving whatever the animal [carries with it, being fur and other things].”
Smith doesn’t want there to be any reason or obstacle for a student to avoid seeing her, “You should be able to see me period. You should be able to interview me, and if there is something that has to do with the space that your tuition is covering for me to be here, then I need to make sure that it’s as comfortable to you as possible, so that’s a piece of it too. It’s not like being in a bedroom with an animal as much, but it’s still, ‘how do I tell Joy Smith that I don’t want to come to her office because she’s got [an animal or its presence in her office], how do I tell a faculty member that I prefer to do such and such, and negotiate the animal of the faculty member. Again, trying not to overstate that, haven’t had tons of complaints, but I’ve had students mention to me that there are different situations where they would’ve liked to said [the pet bothered them], and I too said something about animals, and I [would’ve told them] that I’m not sure how to advise you on that.”
There was a situation where a student brought a pet to class, and Smith felt this was more reason to create the policy, “I know at least one faculty member who contacted me to ask me about a person who was bringing a pet to class. They weren’t complaining about that; they just wondered whether they should address it with the student or not, and I explained to the faculty member that the policy for the students actually doesn’t allow them to bring a pet to class, and that faculty member said, ‘well let me handle it this; I don’t want anybody to contact the student about it. I just wanted to check because another student had said something to the faculty member about it.’ So, animals in the classroom seem to be something that students don’t seem to want or need them there, but students are not allowed to have them there. Just the fact that the faculty member didn’t know that either was a piece that said to me ‘Well, we need to make it clearer for everybody, like what is the policy about pets? Where can they be and where can they not be?’”
It took the team about six months to create the policy.
“The intent is to have a safe, secure, and well-maintained campus that’s comfortable for all of the people that are on it, and I believe that’s what the policy tries to do. [We want] students to have all access to sources on campus with as few barricades as possible,” Smith concluded.