Policy FAQs

What is a policy? procedure? guideline? standard?

Standards are mandatory rules that give formal policies support and wide consensus. Standards provide clear instructions and information as to what is expected. Standards can be as simple as using an official seal on documents or mandating what computer hardware and/or software is supported by the college or required for a major.

Guidelines are recommendations when no specific standards apply. Guidelines are usually formulated according to best practices, are more general vs specific rules and regulations, are necessarily to handle unforeseen circumstances, but should not be confused with formal policy statements.

Procedures are the step-by-step instructions to achieve a goal or mandate – the “HOW” to fulfill the requirements of the policies. They are usually internal and can be developed as practice evolves. Procedures should be documented. Procedures can be a comprehensive handbook or a ‘cheat sheet’ to guide users. Procedures are often included in the policy document; other procedures are stand-alone documents.

Policies form the basis for governance. They are formal statements created with the approval and support of senior administration. They can apply to the entire institution or just to a specific area or issue. Policies empower staff with a degree of freedom within defined boundaries.

What does every policy have in common?

Every policy should have four common criteria:

  1. The policy has broad application across the institution.
  2. The policy requires senior-level approval.
  3. The goal of the policy is to ensure compliance with law or regulations, increase efficiency by eliminating uncertainty, or to protect the institution from audit, litigation or scandal – in some cases, all three!
  4. The policy contains constraints or procedures for compliance.

Why is policy necessary?

A mission statement provides a broad overview of an institution’s function, philosophies and goals.
Policy is created to provide clear expectations and guidance to employees on a daily basis to follow those philosophies and reach our goals. If every decision made in the institution must align with the mission statement, then every policy should as well.

Can anyone propose a new policy? Can policies be changed once approved?

Perhaps a situation has recently developed, has gone unresolved for a significant amount of time for a variety of reasons, or no longer exists. Any member of the campus community has the ability to suggest a new policy. Conversely, policies which are no longer applicable may also be withdrawn by informing the Policy Coordinator, who will advance the withdrawal through the Policy Advisory Committee for consideration.

What is the process and format for writing a new policy?

The first step in the process is to complete a Policy Needs Assessment form and submit to the Policy Advisory Committee (“PAC”) for review. The rest of the process is outlined in the Policy on Administrative Policies, which was approved by the Cabinet in November 2018.

Don’t we already have all the policies we need?

The answer to this question is highly debatable, meaning that for many years RISD community members who saw a perceived need to deal with a situation or potential problem would take it upon themselves to write a document to address the issue; however, this often was done without oversight or formal approval, uniformity, regular review and revision, or a single publication site and archive of these documents. Additionally, the Board of Trustees, through the Audit Committee, as well as our internal and external auditors in the prosecution of their responsibilities, have mandated that we correct this governance issue.

Who approves policies at RISD?

As set out in the Policy on Administrative Policies approved by the Cabinet in November 2018, the review and approval cycle advances from the Policy Advisory Committee up to the Cabinet prior to publication.

How do I know that I am reading the most recent version of a policy?

Publication on the policies.risd.edu site guarantees that only the current and approved version of any policy is visible on the website at any time.