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Community Standards replaces Residential Life

By CHRISTOPHER DANIEL | Wednesday, September 11, 2013

 

Students used to cringe at the thought of having to go to the Office of Residence Life, but the new school year has brought changes to the University’s conduct system.  

Members of the Office of Community Standards, which has replaced the Office of Residence Life, gathered in the LaFortune Student Center on Tuesday to discuss these adjustments to the disciplinary process.

Director of community standards Ryan Willerton said these changes are only to the process a student undergoes and not to the actual policies regarding student conduct.  

Willerton said the motive for the new change was to create a disciplinary system that addresses the specific needs and offenses of individual students.

“We will look at every student as an individual,” Willerton said. “We want to get to the heart of the matter and try to make a process that helps a student learn and grow.”

University officials conducted a comprehensive review of student opinions about the conduct system and of standards at other leading universities. Willerton said this review highlighted the problems with the Residence Life system.  

“After we compiled all this information, we noticed procedural inconsistencies,” he said. 

Sarah Senseman, director of constituent services for Student Government, explained how certain scenarios will play out under the new policy. She said if a student is intoxicated on campus, he or she will receive an individualized punishment.

“In the old system, students would have been referred to the Office of Residence Life along with the option of 20 hours of community service or a $200 fine. Now, this [infraction] will result in a meeting with a rector, along with an outcome tailored to the specific student,” Senseman said.  

Another change is that the University will no longer report first-time offenses of this level to external groups or individuals, Senseman said.  

Members of the Office of Community Standards also discussed the continuation of the Peer Advocacy Program, which allows students undergoing the conduct process to meet with a peer adviser.  

Erin O’Brien, vice president of the Judicial Council for Peer Advocacy, said the Peer Advocacy Program enables students to better work with the system instead of against it. She said students can consult with these peer advocates before, during or after the conduct process.  

O’Brien said the Peer Advocacy Program makes the disciplinary process less stressful for students.

“We want to ease anxiety that students may have about the conduct process,” she said. 

Willerton said the new system is designed to create a campus community where behavior is characterized by proper respect for others.

“It’s all about holistic development of our students. …The standards of our community are really based on respect,” he said.

There are only two circumstances under which a disciplinary case can be appealed, Willerton said.  

“Only a procedural defect or a new form of information about a case can reopen it. … One cannot file a new case based on the severity of the outcome,” Willerton said.

Willerton said the new policies give rectors and resident assistants increased opportunities for mentorship and conversation with students.

“The rector knows you best and can figure out an outcome that will help you learn and keep the problem from happening again,” Willerton said.

Many standards of conduct and the associated levels of disciplinary referral are available at communitystandards.nd.edu