College Judicial Consultants

Information on college, conduct, Greek life, advocacy, and fairness-published every Tuesday and Friday morning.

Year in Review: The Disappointing Appeal Process (pt.1)–Background

[As this year wraps up, I thought it would be worth talking about some of the good things and bad things I’ve noticed that cut across all systems.]

All college discipline systems have an appeals process that is meant to protect the rights of the respondents. In theory, these are the checks on the authority of the judicial boards that can suspend or expel a student. Since the judicial boards have so much power, the appeals process is meant to ensure that a student was not sanctioned unfairly or against policy. If you’re a student or a Greek organization and you go through the judicial process (“respondent”) and get a sanction you think is unfair or you feel you were denied a fair hearing, you can appeal that decision to a “higher” administrator authority. The idea behind this is a good one—while the boards are very well trained and successfully make dozens of hard decision each year, occasionally there might be a mistake that unjustly impacts a respondent. The appeals process makes sure that these mistakes are corrected and that the “right” result is ensured.

Unfortunately, in most systems the appeals process is merely a false hope offered to respondents, and their actual chance of changing a board’s decision is nil.

Sisyphus

Almost without exception, the appeal is not a rehearing of the case. Since the board heard the case and was in the best position to make decisions of fact, the de facto position is that their conclusions are “true” unless some “mistake”  happened to make their conclusions incorrect. As a rule of thumb, even though a judicial board uses the “preponderance of evidence” standard when deciding facts, a higher standard is used when deciding if those facts are reasonable. (More on that later.) Even more importantly, almost no system allows you to directly attack the board’s findings so you must use a different ground to get to a place where your dispute will be considered-something beyond the ability of almost all students. There are only a few grounds a respondent can use in an appeal (and most schools have some combination of these, although they may be worded differently):

  1. New evidence that was not available during the hearing, but which could/would have changed the outcome—This is an almost impossible standard. It does not mean that there was something a respondent could have presented but chose not to and it does not mean that there was something that they could have found but didn’t. It means literally that something came to light after the hearing that would have been used if it was found before the hearing, and that it was not discoverable prior. (Some systems have a looser interpretation, but this is the common one.) Not only that, but it needs to be different from the other evidence that was presented in order to potentially have changed the outcome.
  2. A procedural error which affected the outcome—This is a two part check. It is not enough that a procedural mistake was made, but that mistake needs to be serious enough that it resulted in a decision that would have been different if it was not made. Since a judicial administrator’s job is to make certain that these types of errors do not occur, these are rarely winners. (This ground is usually a way to argue the facts, but the appeals officer has to agree that there was a violation or she will just dismiss the argument without consideration.)
  3. A misinterpretation or incorrect use of policy—This is less commonly used, but it essentially means that there was a charge that, when applying the facts as the board found them, should not have resulted in responsibility.
  4. The sanction is too severe for the violations—This is where most students couch their appeal because to them this one is both true and understandable. A respondent may not understand what the policy for disdog-chasing-its-tail11puting the impartiality of a board member is and whether or not there was a mistake, but she knows that being suspended for a year is severe. The mistake they make is that in order to win on this ground, the sanction given has to be more severe than the acceptable range for these violations. This does not mean that the appeals officer thinks that the sanction should havebeen lighter, but that the sanction given was not within an acceptable range of potential sanctions. Since most violations that could result in a suspension for a semester could, in theory, result in expulsion this is deceptively difficult.

The problem is not the difficulty of an appeal, but that the system is set up to make it virtually impossible to make a successful argument. On Friday I will discuss why the appeals process is essentially “fixed” to work against the respondent, and next week I will offer some suggestions on how to make it fairer.

Am I missing something significant? Please feel free to comment and correct me, but if you are a judicial officer I ask that you include your appeals statistics for cases that resulted in suspension or expulsion.

No blog today, instead we have questions

As the school year winds down, we are wrapping things up here as well so there is no new blog today. Instead I have a few questions that I would love you to answer.

 

1. If you have ever been in disciplinary trouble at school, how helpful were the resources the school provided?

2. If you, your fraternity, or sorority got in trouble this year why did you choose not to get help?

As always you can answer in the comments or email me directly, Davek@collegejudicialconsultants.com.

Be good and have a good weekend!

 

 

 

Good luck (and good decisions) during finals!

StressedStudent2-1

Most schools are winding down with finals either this week or next which means *stress.* We all do silly things to make ourselves more anxious during high stress times, but for most of us that anxiety will not translate to any real problems. There are times, however, when our bad habits cause us to respond to manageable situations as if they were hopeless. It is then that we do things that we would not do otherwise like plagiarize, cheat, or take other shortcuts that can get you suspended or expelled from school. Most students I deal with that get caught cheating are not habitual cheaters. They are good people and good students who were overwhelmed and acted without thinking things through. By taking a deep breath and asking yourself the following questions you can save yourself a lot of trouble down the road:

  1. What will happen if you get caught? For most academic misconduct you should assume that you will, at a minimum, fail the class. In addition, faculty and TAs are actively looking for academic misconduct during the last couple of weeks of school and during finals. Because of this, you will probably also be referred to the judicial office and if you are found responsible you will be suspended. Even if you would fail the final or the last paper without cheating, there is a HUGE difference between an earned F and an assigned 0.
  2. How much will cheating help you even if you get away with it? Going back to the above example, let’s assume that the final is half your grade. If you have a D going into the final that means you have at least 30 points (60% of 50 points=30). If you cheat and get an A, that would add 45 points to your grade which would give you a C. So if you cheat and succeed you’re getting a C, if you don’t and you get a D you’re getting a D, and if you get caught you’re getting an F and likely getting suspended. The potential reward is not worth it. You’d be better off not studying and spending that time on other classes. (Note: the math works if you have a B going into the final as well.)
  3. How easy is it to catch plagiarism? The answer to this is “easy.” Professors and TAs know to Google phrases that sound “off” to them and they will likely find the source you used and didn’t credit, or the book you pretended to use and cited. If you don’t have time to finish a paper without plagiarizing, talk to your professor ASAP. Even if she will not give you extra time, you will likely only lose a set amount of points by handing it in late, and that’s much better than a zero.

    Most people get away with this part and are caught during grading.

    Most people get away with this part and are caught during grading.

  4. Why would someone I care about ask me to risk everything so they can cheat? Many academic misconduct cases are when one student cheats of another student who is doing well in the class. In most systems, especially those with an honor code, both students are accountable for that even if one student receives no benefit from the misconduct. I understand that if your friend, that girl you like, or your boyfriend asks that it is really hard to say no because you want to help them. However, this is the academic misconduct equivalent of them asking you to smuggle their drugs through the airport and I bet all of you would be too smart to do that.
  5. Have I tried everything else? Your school has academic support resources, policies for getting an “Incomplete,” and other options to get help with academic situations that seem hopeless. Even more importantly, most of your faculty want you to succeed and if you approach them they may have options for you. If none of these actually help you then at least you tried to do everything you could and you can feel better about your actual grade.

Of course, if you decided to cheat anyway and get caught, we’re here to help.

What other strategies do you have to get out of trouble without cheating? If you’re faculty at a school what have you done to help students in crisis? Any tips?

Making Timid “Leaders”-Why Failing the Maryland Delta Gamma Shames Us All

By now many of you know about the email sent by the UMD Delta Gamma Social Chair to her sorority sisters where she chastised them for their actions and attitudes during Greek Week. Apparently someone in the sorority shared this email with the public, it went viral, got lampooned, and now the author has “resigned” from the sorority. While there are apparently many people who feel that her actions were “inexcusable,” I believe that the people who should truly be ashamed are the sisters, Delta Gamma national, and any administrators who did not stand up for this woman. Loyalty and support are great values, but if they only exist when things are easy then they are meaningless.


Delta Gamma posted their position on this incident on their website describing the email as “highly inappropriate and unacceptable by any standard” and “as all reasonable people can agree, this is an email that should never have been sent by its author. Period.” I have tremendous respect for Delta Gamma, but they are wrong. The young woman did not make serious threats, there was no promotion of drug use, there was no pornography, there was no hazing, and there was no promotion of illegal activity. The “unacceptable by any standard” content was simply swearing, name calling, and exaggerated threats. When you read the email (which, by the way, is hilarious) what comes across most is the frustration and anger that she’s feeling. She absolutely could have toned it down or used a different approach, but why did she HAVE to? What was more unreasonable, the way she worded her email or the actions that lead her to do it? Her decision to write an email without the false niceties, insincere politeness, and passive aggression we see in most chastising emails may have embarrassed the national organization, but what this reasonable person things should have never been done is for National to have thrown her under the bus. If a national organization cannot rally around a member when she is under intense pressure and publically support her while addressing the issue in private, then what type of loyalty should they expect from members?


One of the reasons we do what we do at College Judicial Consultants is because in most cases, the student support resources and professionals fail students when they need them the most. Most of the time that failure is a result of a lack of resources-it takes a long time to work with one student in crisis and spending that time means you cannot spend it with the thousands of other students who need you. However, there is commonly also a loss of perspective regarding what it is like to be college-aged, and we are losing the lesson that it is how people respond to their mistakes that define them. When a student or organization stumbles, the response should be “what do we need to do to pick them up” rather than shaming them or banning them from the communities. (It is worth noting that UMD’s Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Matt Supple did just that.)

You tried to make us behave better, and because we didn’t like your tone you’re on your own.

There are actions so terrible that by committing them a student irredeemably abandons the community, but this was not one of them. This was a woman frustrated by the failure of her sisters to meet their obligations during a high profile event for which she was responsible. She likely spent weeks during chapter meetings trying to get them to understand their obligations, and made attempts to address behavior prior to the infamous email. When she heard that her sisters were not only failing to meet those obligations, but also doing so in a way that embarrassed the chapter she lashed out while still addressing the specific behaviors. I, for one, would love to know there are more people out there like her.


We need to stop letting style dictate our response and focus on substance. She clearly articulated her frustration and disappointment, but if she would have been phony and polite it would have been praised. More importantly, how does demanding insincerity make someone  a better “leader,” and where is the accountability for the sisters who were behaving contrary to the chapter values during Greek Week? Where is National’s public shaming and abandonment of the people who shared private communication with the world? Where are the campus harassment charges for taking action against the social chair that they knew would humiliate her, and sharing confidential communication against her will to do so? Once again, we praise people who fail to confront openly while vilifying someone who speaks her mind simply because the language used was considered “offensive.” I’m willing to bet $20 that her sorority sisters knew her personality when they elected her, and that none of them were offended by the email.

Can we please stop teaching our women that “demure” is a positive value?


If we want better leaders we must not only allow students to make mistakes, but encourage them to make big ones. We need to praise the efforts behind the mistakes rather than separate ourselves from the people who make them. Otherwise we create leaders too afraid to make big choices for fear of losing their positions, a culture where sharing private information with the world is praised and the person who does so is free from accountability, and the fear of abandonment by anyone who tries to do something other than in a proscribed way. These are not “higher standards,” and the way this woman was handled should shame us all.


How do you respond when a student leader you work with acts in a way you disapprove of? How would you have handled this situation? Let us know in the comments or email me at DaveK@CollegeJudicialConsultants.com.

Be better.

 



How to Fix The College Discipline System for Sexual Assault Cases

NYT article

Click here for the NYT article on the issues at Swarthmore and Occidental.

Colleges and universities are under scrutiny their (mis)handling of sexual assault and interpersonal violence (IPV) cases. High profile schools are being investigated for violating victims’ rights, while at the same time there is a growing movement advocating for increasing the rights and protections of the accused. There have been calls from both sides to take these cases out of the college judicial process and leave it to the courts, but all that will do is take options away from the victim and result in even fewer perpetrators facing accountability.

Both sides are correct—colleges are not equipped to handle these cases. However, it is not because the judicial systems are inherent flawed or a lack of awareness by the people involved—it is because it is impossible to have a system  fair to both parties when the people responsible for the different aspects of the case have other interests and responsibilities. To ensure the disciplinary process is followed and fair, a school should hire outside entities to handle the three major components of a case, and allow the college administrators to focus on their responsibilities.

By necessity there will be oversimplification of the issues to make this piece’s length manageable, but I am operating under several assumptions:

  1. Judicial administrators (JAs) and board members want to have a fair system that reaches the right result and do not intentionally revictimize or perpetuate rape myths.
  2. The college judicial system is the lowest barrier accountability system available to victims.
  3. Colleges have dedicated professionals in place to assist victims of interpersonal violence through the process as their only or primary responsibility. (This is more rare than the assumption suggests.)

(In addition, I am only discussing student on student IPV cases and will be gender normative-using “she/her” for victims and “he/him” for perpetrators even though I recognize that these roles are not absolute.)

There are four essential components to any case: the case preparation for each side, the investigation, and the hearing. Each requires a rigid activist committed to the perfect execution of their responsibilities in order for them to be successful. However, each of those by necessity encroaches on the other components.

A victim will have to answer questions she does not want to answer to aid in an investigation, a respondent may be moved or transferred out of a class to protect the victim, the opportunity to confront the accuser by definition hurts the victim, etc.

A victim will have to answer questions she does not want to answer to aid in an investigation, a respondent may be moved or transferred out of a class to protect the victim, the opportunity to confront the accuser by definition hurts the victim, etc.

For that reason, there should be 3 professionals exclusively dedicated to these components without regard or responsibility for the other 2, but with a good relationship with each other in order to assure equal advocacy, transparency and fairness. The JA should “only” be responsible for ensuring due process is followed at a hearing, and that each of the three advocates are engaged in a timely manner. While the JA might be able to assume an additional responsibility (and currently may do all of them,) the only way the JA can be responsible for ensuring fairness and due process is if there is someone else who can fully advocate for each side without concern for the other or for the school’s liability.

Simply put, it is impossible for a school to reduce or eliminate its liability in these cases without outsourcing the advocacy and investigatory responsibilities. As long as an “agent” of the school is working with one side in preparing a case, the school remains at risk of liability from the other side. Schools know this, so even victim advocates are pressured to limit their work to connecting victims with resources and, in the best systems, advocating for “one-sided” accommodations. The advocate may also provide excellent advice in preparing the case, but he or she does so knowing that if the respondent sues that assistance may be used against the school. The victim and respondent advisora needs to be separate from the university, intimately familiar with the college judicial process, and have a good and open relationship with the support resources on campus.

Providing equal and external assistance is crucial since the basis of most claims against a college is “inequitable resources” that resulted in an outcome that breached the school’s duty of care. It is also important that the “outsourced” group not be attorneys and/or not be acting as an attorney to prevent the process from becoming de facto litigation. The judicial process is not a legal process and while these resources will help the parties prepare their cases, get ready for the hearings, and protect their rights and interests it will remain up to the students to present their cases through whatever system is in place.

The last component necessary to increase the fairness is a competent external investigator for each allegation that can interview the parties involved, meet with witnesses, ensure that all evidence is collected, and then prepare a report on those findings to help the parties prepare their statements and/or the board reach a decision. There are some schools, like Harvard, that have been doing this (or something similar) for years, but it is prohibitively expensive for most schools. I believe it is possible to have someone responsible for those investigations that can do them at a much lower cost (and have a few suggestions) but expecting students to gather all that information impartially and without exerting pressure on the people interviewed is unreasonable (and developmentally inappropriate.)

Engaging these outside entities will increase the likelihood that the parties will be able to present their positions fully and clearly, that as much information as possible will be available to get as close to truth and fairness as possible, and limit a school’s liability and giving them clean hands. It would be naïve to ignore the additional costs a school would bear to provide these resources, but compared to the positive impact for the students and the reduction in the liability, the costs would be well worth it.

What do you think? Are schools equipped to help each party prepare adequately while still protecting themselves? Are there other (and better) ways to approach this? Leave a comment or email me at (DaveK@collegejudicialconsultants.com). Be good and be safe.

Your Argument is Wrong, Ms. Grossman–The Realities of Sexual Assault Cases in College

Image

Click here for the Wall Street Journal Article

On April 17, Judith Grossman wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal describing her son’s experience with his school’s judicial system in a sexual assault case. In the article she raises some concerns about the judicial process that should be explored (and I’ll do that in Tuesday’s blog) but those points get lost because she uses straw man arguments (understandably motivated by a mother’s outrage), incorrectly states the problems, and misses the entire point of sexual assault cases on college campuses.

Sexual assault cases on a college campus are different than other types of judicial cases:

  1. Most sexual assaults between students involve a pre-existing relationship and alcohol. A victim being an “ex-lover” is not evidence in favor of accused students. In fact, predators rely on the idea that past relationships mean sexual assault did not happen, and develop these relationships prior to committing sexual assault to allow for that defense. The issue is was there consent in that particular instance. Nothing else matters.
  2. Most victims of sexual assault on a college campus do not bring cases against their attackers. Among the myriad reasons are the facts that they feel as if nobody will believe them, that they are somehow to blame (they aren’t), and that if the attacker is found not responsible that somehow means it didn’t happen. Ms. Grossman labels herself a “feminist,” but the only point of that characterization I can see is to somehow give credibility to her victim-blaming tone throughout the piece. While I do not blame her for writing as a mother, Ms. Grossman willfully ignores the overwhelming pressure against victims. This includes the very real and well-documented academic, social, and personal impact of sexual assault and the overwhelming percentages of victims that suffer in silence fearing the exact type of response in the piece.
  3. Victims that come forward and hold their attackers accountable have been shown by the FBI and DOJ to be presenting “false” accusations only 2% of the time. Even assuming Ms. Grossman’s son was victim of the incredibly rare 2%, when a victim comes forward and has the courage to see the process through the smart money is on it being true. Her characterization of this woman as a “spurned ex-lover lashing out” is dangerous because it has the very real possibility of preventing future victims from coming forward for fear that they will be classified in the same way.
  4. Title IX and the Office of Civil Rights did not eliminate the presumption of innocence. I have talked about the problem with “innocent” students defending themselves, but If her son was indeed “presumed guilty,” that has nothing to do with Title IX. If she is correct, it does sound as if her son went through a terribly unfair system that misapplied OCR’s instructions, but the instructions themselves do not eliminate a victim’s rights. (I explain the preponderance of evidence standard in these cases here.) In 2011 the implementation of Title IX, as it applies to sexual assault and other interpersonal violence cases, was explained by OCR to require a school to do something when a student comes forward as a victim of these types of crimes. This was done to address systemic issues with colleges covering up sexual assaults intentionally, “accidentally” through heavy-handed administrative responses, or by allowing a culture that perpetuates rape myths, and letting peer pressure silence the victims.
  5. Neither party is allowed an attorney. Ms. Grossman makes it sound as if her son was the only one or as if there was an attorney against her son. Neither is true. An attorney did not question her son, the board does not consist of attorneys, and in all likelihood the only person who had an attorney’s help throughout the process was her son.

There are many problems with the campus judicial system, but the case Ms. Grossman uses and the issues she has do not prove those issues. Her call for changing the system and making it more “legal” is exactly why attorneys are not helpful if you are going through your campus judicial process. While it is true that most campuses do not provide the same specific resources for accused students as victims (we offer both,) that is because the college and world communities (including most people who sit on a judicial body) do not understand these issues, and their ignorance (or outright hostility) support the accused in these cases. As a wise colleague once said only partially facetiously “they don’t need help convincing the world they’re good guys.”

Let me know what you think! I respond to all comments and all emails sent to DaveK@Collegejudicialconsultants.com.

Kindness for Boston

There will be no blog today. College Judicial Consultants is based out of Boston, and the tragedy at the Boston Marathon deserves to have us take a break from our routine and honor all the victims. My hope is that we respond with kindness to each other, and remember that we are all connected.

 

God bless, and be kind.

A Surgeon With a Scalpel–Disciplinary Sanctions in College Judicial Cases pt. 2

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(Click here for part 1)

When you do a “small” wrong (e.g. underage drinking) or something very large (e.g. sexual assault) the system works more often than it doesn’t. It is for the cases in between that it frequently fails. The biggest reason for this failure is that while many schools put systems in place to help students when they stumble, those systems cannot or do not help students when they fall.

When you take a class, if you do the work to the best of your ability and attend class they do not kick you out for failing a quiz. The professor (hopefully) will talk to you about office hours, the TA, academic support centers, and other resources that can help you because the fact that you’re willing to work matters. Even if those support systems do not work and you fail the class, chances are that work ethic will mean that you do well in enough of your other classes to stay off academic probation or fail out. Most schools even allow you to take the class you fail over again and have that grade either substitute for or counterbalance the initial failure.

While I believe student affairs is an academic discipline, the systems are not as forgiving for developmental and behavioral failures. Judicial administrators may (correctly) claim that their system “works” because it does in most cases, but I believe it fails in roughly 5% of the cases. While a school may argue that a 95% success rate is good (and organizationally it might be) if you’re those 5 students in 100 who are affected by the flaws, the system is unfair. There are several reasons the systems fall short:

  • All judicial systems are complaint based, and as a result you are punished for being caught and who caught you at least as much as for what you did.
  • The actions that bring a student in front of a judicial board are viewed as negative and against community values in a way that academic failure is not. If you get caught smoking marijuana and playing Call of Duty in the residence hall on a Thursday afternoon, the school responds as you have betrayed all values and community expectations. The idea that you can be a leader, do well academically, and still choose to violate certain rules is not one that’s embraced or even discussed.So no matter what else you do, you will be held accountable for that singular act of misconduct the same way the kid who only plays call of duty and smokes weed will be.

Developmentally, these three do not need the same sanction.

  • Colleges do not have the resources to provide the educational response necessary to correct a student’s behavior. Even at schools with large mental health departments, doing the type of work necessary to help a student through an alcohol or drug addiction is often impossible. Many schools refer students to outside resources to address this, but many more simply do not have those community resources available and thus send the student “home” to have the work done.
  • Many schools have mandatory sanctions. There is absolutely nothing educational about mandatory sanctions, and if someone tries to pretend there is they’re wrong. Sometimes these “mandatory” sanctions mean that each violation (no matter the circumstances) results in a more severe penalty–essentially creating a “three strikes” policy. Again, this problem does not make a system inefficient or mean that it can’t reach the right result, but even when it succeeds, that success is more luck than pedagogy.
  • Judicial boards are  trained to be effective, not to find people not responsible. Most judicial board training is on the types of questions to ask, getting them to accept the responsibilities of the position, and helping them understand the more liberal evidentiary policies. I fully believe in the preponderance of evidence standard, but it is not a forgiving standard if the person applying it is looking to answer “is it more likely than not the respondent did it” rather than “is it more likely than not the respondent did NOT do it.”
  • It is developmentally inappropriate to expect students to be able to articulate their response in high stress situations. I tell my clients not to lie, but when the truth will definitively be held against them it is hard for many students to understand how honesty is rewarded. If a respondent cannot or does not feel he or she can accept responsibility and explain the reasons, a board will not have the information it needs to sanction in a way that educates and rehabilitates.

Doing programs and talking to students without addiction issues about moderation is easy. Punishing students overwhelmed by their lives who feel trapped and take academic shortcuts is easy.  The hard part, and the part that separates educators from enforcers, is in being able to do the easy work consistently and well while also being able to do the hard stuff. 99% of the student affairs professionals I know could do that work and want to do it, but they need the resources and support to do so. If a school will not provide those resources then it needs to be straightforward and tell their prospective students that no matter who they are and what their reasons, if certain mistakes are made they will be abandoned and cut off from the community.

Are you a judicial administrator with a different opinion? Are you a student who felt unheard through the judicial process? Let me know either in the comments or email me at davek@collegejudicialconsultants.com.

Have a great weekend, and be good.

A Surgeon With a Scalpel–Disciplinary Sanctions in College Judicial Cases pt. 1

When there is a judicial hearing, the judicial body performs a two-step process. First, they must determine whether the respondent (i.e. person or group accused) is responsible (i.e. “guilty.”) Then, if the respondent is responsible, the second step is deciding what sanction (i.e. punishment) should be given. I spend most of my time working with clients on the second step since if the respondent has actually done something “wrong” it is almost not worth the time to try and prove that he/she/they are not “responsible” since the standard of proof is almost always “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. more likely than not.) As long as there is a negligible enough amount “evidence” more than a coin toss to show that the respondent is responsible (and there usually is) then the real goal is to provide the hearing body with the information it needs to justify the lowest sanction possible considering the violation. While this is neat in theory, it becomes much trickier to do in practice because the systems are not set up to be nuanced in the way they would need to be to truly be educational. While the judicial body and judicial administrators take the heat for this, it is not (usually) their fault. It is because in most cases they do not have the tools, systems, or support to sanction effectively.

Since this is going to be a busy time for judicial offices (and thus students) I thought it was worth explaining the sanctioning process to help people understand what may be happening, why they may seem more punitive than educational, and finally what can be done to fix it. Since that would be a super long blog I’m going to do the first part today and the rest on Friday. If you have any thoughts/questions before that post let me know and I’ll try to incorporate them.

Almost all judicial systems have (at most) 4 categories of sanctions-warning, probation, suspension, and expulsion.

  • Warning (a.k.a. disciplinary warning, disciplinary notice, informal probation, etc.)—This level usually means “you did something small you shouldn’t have, and don’t do it again.” It puts you on the radar, but should have essentially no impact on you.
  •  Probation (a.k.a. disciplinary probation, formal probation, change of student standing, etc.)—This is a more formal sanction that usually makes a notation on your record to put others who access that record on notice, usually a notation on your internal and/or external transcripts. This may stop you from being able to obtain certain positions on campus (resident assistant, orientation leader, student government office, etc.), but it is not meant to severely interfere with your ability to successfully continue with the complete student experience. If you stay out of trouble, the probation will go away eventually, the notation is usually removed, and you can move on with your life.
  • Suspension (a.k.a. holy crap, what am I going to tell my parents!)—This is a non-voluntary separation from the college or university for a defined period of time, usually between one semester and two years. While schools may say that returning is “conditional” they usually allow a person back after the suspension period is over. Some students decide to transfer, but being on suspension may limit the schools to which they can be admitted.
  • Expulsion (a.k.a. “this is probably the least of my worries.”)—This is forced permanent separation from the college or university with no possibility of return for that degree or any degree in the future (usually.)

In addition, there are “educational” sanctions that can be included as part of any decision. These include reflective essays, mandated counseling (although most counselors I know hate this,) community service hours, and other activities meant to inform a student about the impact of a violation, give him/her the tools to make better decisions in the future, and/or “restore” the larger community.

In theory these levels make sense—smoking cigarettes in a stairwell should not be treated the same as habitual plagiarism. I have already talked about how I think suspension is antithetical to the judicial process as an educational tool, since taking a respondent out of the campus community limits the type of education and oversight you can provide. However, the judicial administrators and hearing bodies did not cause this problem. Most judicial administrators I know really want the process to rehabilitate and enable the respondent to have success in the future. The problem is that with the more serious violations, the judicial administrator (who I would like to call “judicial educator”) needs a scalpel to carefully cut away a respondent’s developmental and personal failings that lead to the more serious violations, but all they have are the awkward clubs—suspension and expulsion.

If you have any questions or suggestions you possibly want considered in Friday’s conclusion, leave a comment or email me at DaveK@CollegeJudicialConsultants.com. Be good.

 

Top Five (or 6) Reasons Students Get in More Trouble At the End of the Year

In my experience, the last 6 weeks of school have the highest amount of judicial incidents. I wanted to share some of the reasons for the spike, and offer some tips on how to prevent them. (As always, if you have any problems or want some advice on how to avoid problems, we can help.)

  • Senior Week. While it may be true that the rules are “relaxed” during this week, there is always someone who will take it too far and confuse relaxed enforcement with anarchy. Every year there are seniors who wake up from a night of debauchery to find that they have a meeting with the judicial office and have placed their graduation in jeopardy. Tip: Remember not to fight, destroy things, do drugs, or commit sexual assault and you should be okay. Better yet, stop drinking before you won’t remember all the fun you had.
  • Senior Week, Greek Version—Once classes and exams are over there are occasionally seniors who decide they can party with reckless abandon. The problem is that if they violate the rules, even if they are the only people left in the house, your fraternity or sorority will still be held accountable for their actions long after they’ve graduated. Tip: Work with your chapter advisors and Greek life office to separate your chapter from any “problem seniors” before they do something wrong. Even letting those resources know you’re concerned will help mitigate the trouble later if something happens.
  • You Are “Sick of It”—Stress makes small sparks into huge flames. If you are in a forced relationship with someone (roommate, project team, etc.) that has been difficult to this point, it is not going to get easier.  Tip: Get help-your RA, hall director, TA, and professors either have some training in mediation or can point you to someone who does. Address these issues BEFORE you lose it on your roommate for putting on Skrillex at 3am AGAIN, or on that jerk in your business class who isn’t doing his part.

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  • Breakups—When you’re in a relationship with issues, nothing brings those to the forefront like the looming specter of finals and summer break. Many breakups happen during the last 6 weeks of school, and someone invariably does not handle it well. This can lead to things like late night confrontations, unwelcomed and repeated texts/phone calls, and other behavior that quickly escalate to stalking and harassment. Tip: Listen to what the other person is telling you regarding his or her boundaries and respect those even if it doesn’t seem “fair.” Connect with the counseling center or administrators you know to safely talk it out.
  • Missed Work Catches Up With You—April and May are also big “academic misconduct” months. If you are too behind in a class to catch up, remember that an earned F is better than a sanctioned zero and a year home on suspension. Tip: Talk to your professor and explain your situation. Addressing it with 5-6 weeks to go will be well received, and your professor may even have some tips to help you feel less overwhelmed.
  • Spring Weekend—In the Spring almost every school has a major event with great musical and comedic acts and day-long functions—essentially they throw a HUGE two-day bash. In addition, there are also a lot of unofficial parties happening at the same time. What you may not realize, is Spring Weekend is also a time where most student affairs staff are required to work. In other words, there are more people on the look out for problems and disruptions than at any other point during the year. So when a student lets loose and comes to campus after they’ve been drinking for 6 hours in the sun or tried mushroom tea for the first time, they get caught. Tip: If you’re going to “get wasted” have a safe place to stay away from campus and people to make sure you’re okay. While you may miss Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the quad, you won’t miss school for the year you’re suspended. Bonus Tip: Watch your guests! Remember that if your friends come visit that their actions can be held against you as if you did them yourself. Be prepared to keep anyone who visits in check.

Do you have any questions you would like answered regarding judicial issues, risk management, student advocacy, or anything else? Email me at davek@collegejudicialconsultants.com. I’ll answer every email I receive and may use some of them in a newsletter or blog.

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