Dissection & Vivisection

How to Create a Student Choice Policy at the College/University Level

If you have concerns about dissection or vivisection at college, or university, speak to other students and see if they share similar concerns. If other students share your views on animal dissection, you should consider developing a student choice policy. As a group, you could choose to write a petition in support of a student's right to opt for alternatives over traditional dissection. As part of the petition, it can be explained that there is no intention to stop dissection and vivisection altogether; only to ensure that those students who want an alternative are provided one. Student Government is usually a good place to start in passing a resolution in support of a student choice policy.

At the university level, biology and psychology majors will be the students who are most affected by student choice policies. However, non-majors will also be helpful in passing such a resolution. Try to get written letters of support from as many students as possible, both majors and non-majors. Some of them may have avoided certain courses because of dissection or animal use requirements.

It would also be a good idea to borrow some alternatives from Animalearn's free lending library of dissection alternatives, The Science Bank before you meet with faculty at your college/university. This is important because it will demonstrate your level of preparedness, and it will also allow them to view the variety of non-animal alternatives that are available and the level of quality. Remember that Animalearn can send you materials from The Science Bank free of charge. To examine what we offer.

In your quest to implement a student choice policy, it is wise to speak to professors and the chairs of the various departments where dissection and vivisection are part of the curriculum. If possible, meet with each professor individually, and explain that you are not trying to stop dissection and vivisection altogether, but rather that you want to ensure that those students who request an alternative are provided one. If you have borrowed alternatives from Animalearn, this would be a good time to show them to your professor for review. If this meeting goes well, ask for a meeting with the entire department to demonstrate alternatives and to further discuss the implementation of a student choice policy.

If you are a student in medical or veterinary school, you also need to arrange a meeting with professors. Be sure to include students who share your perspective in the meeting. Attend the meeting prepared with information, including alternatives that are available for various procedures. Present the professors with your ideas for a policy, and when possible, demonstrate the alternatives you have borrowed from Animalearn.

If those professors at the college, university, or veterinary/medical level are not agreeable to instituting a student choice policy, you may have to go to the administration. Introduce yourself and the issue to the Dean, President, University Senate, or the Board of Trustees. You should always be polite and prepared. Present the issue as you did to the vet and medical school professors. Be persistent and remember that you are simply asking for an option for those who ethically object to using animals in labs. You will find supporters; you may just have to speak to several people.

The Alumni Association may be of assistance to you. If you are circulating a petition, the Association may be able to email it to alumni. Having alumni support the students' choice option could have a very influential effect on the campus administration's decision, especially if some of the alumni are donors to the college or university.

If you feel that you are not making enough progress in your quest to implement a student choice policy at your school, you may need to include the media. Your campus newspaper can be of assistance because it can inform other students and faculty across the entire university that there is interest in creating a student choice policy. The best tactic is to submit a thoughtful, reasonable letter to your campus paper. You can also contact your local TV stations and newspapers to see if they would be interested in interviewing you and doing a story on this topic.

Sample Student Choice Policy

When creating a student choice policy, make sure that you are thorough in including all of the important points that it needs to cover. The following is an example of specific points that a student choice policy should include and clarify.

Who will be affected by the student choice policy?

The policy should outline whether this covers the entire campus or just certain departments. The policy must also indicate whether it will be available to all classes where students may choose not to dissect.

What activities are included in this student choice policy?

Any activities that cause harm to animals should fall under the protection of the student choice policy. It is important that the policy clearly defines what 'animal' means. For example, the policy should explain whether it protects all living creatures in the kingdom 'Animalia', or whether it only applies to vertebrates. These are important issues to consider.

Who has the responsibility of obtaining a non-animal alternative?

The policy should explain whether the responsibility of creating or obtaining an alternative lies with the teacher or with the student. If responsibility lies with the student, the policy must indicate when the student should obtain the alternative. If responsibility lies with the educator, the policy should explain when the student must inform the educator that she or he needs an alternative. The policy must also outline any time limitations for informing the educator that the student does not want to dissect.

What constitutes an acceptable alternative?

Generally, requiring the student to watch others dissect an animal is not an alternative. Even if the students is allowed to leave the room while the dissection is taking place, it is not acceptable for him/her to come back and take an exam on a dissected animal. An acceptable alternative is one that does not cause any harm to animals.

Will students be penalized in any way for choosing the alternative exercise?

This should never happen and is why such policies are necessary. Students using the alternative exercises should receive the same credit/grading system and workload as those participating in traditional dissection/vivisection.

All school faculty members shall respect a student's choice to dissect/vivisect or not to dissect/vivisect. A student must feel free to choose an alternative to dissection without fear of being singled out or pressured.

Will students be informed in writing of their option to choose not to dissect/vivisect at the beginning of each course? Will it be noted in the course catalog?

Theses are preferable because it will allow the student time to obtain an alternative. The minimum timeframe should be two to three weeks prior to the scheduled dissection/vivisection.

How are students informed that a student choice policy exists?

Those instructors that still teach dissection/vivisection in their classes must verbally announce the policy to all students on the first day of the semester and on the day of the dissection/vivisection lesson, or it can be included in the course catalog.

Links to existing college/university student choice policies:

Sarah Lawrence College Bronxville, NY

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL

Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
The Science Bank: Alternatives to Animal Use in Education Humane Science Loan Program Borrow Free Dissection Alternatives Education Level:
Type of Animal:
Type of Alternative:
Find an Alternative
Entire dissection alternatives catalog
Download a PDF of the Science Bank Catalog Request a Printed copy of the Science Bank Catalog Support Animalearn