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OCS director discusses community standards with senators

| Thursday, November 10, 2016

At the opening of the student senate meeting Wednesday night, student body president Corey Robinson addressed the results of the presidential election and his hopes for the Notre Dame community.

“Some were elated, some were dismayed, but today we all woke up American,” he said. “We have a common goal, to make America better, today and in the future. I think the number one thing that we can do is continue to pray for our leaders. Pray for guidance moving into this new chapter in America.” 

The senate then had a presentation and a question-and-answer session with Ryan Willerton, director of the Office of Community Standards. Willerton opened by describing the office itself.

“We are making sure that the conduct that we see on this campus is in accordance with the values of this University,” he said. “We have made some adaptations in the last year, and we want to know what is effective, what is not working and working and what can be tweaked.”

Willerton said the Office of Community Standards’ procedures are “educational by design,” meaning they are meant to help the students develop and grow. However, “we have to balance the development of our students with the standards that our university holds,” he said.

Members then were able to ask questions about OCS, its rules and its procedures. Flaherty Hall senator Jade Martinez asked how long a dismissed student has to wait before reapplying for admission.

“We look at the nature of the incident and its effect on the greater Notre Dame community, and also, typically there is a condition associated with the dismissal,” Willerton said. “For example, someone dismissed for abuses related to alcohol may be required to enter substance abuse treatment.”

Martinez also asked if in sexual assault cases there is an appeals process for a respondent after the decision has been made.

“We don’t have an appeal process; we have a case review process,” Willerton said. “The Office of the President is one of the case reviewers, and if they reverse the decision, we will communicate the result to the students involved.”

“Does the Office [of the President] have to give an explanation of why the change happened?” Martinez asked.

“We don’t require the Office of the President to give an explanation, but I cannot remember a year where no explanation was given whatsoever,” Willerton said.

The questions continued, with Willerton explaining that there is no “Strike System” at the University, discussing how OCS is looking into gathering and publishing statistics on types of reports and their outcomes, and clarifying the difference between OCS and a criminal process.

“The University is a private process, the criminal is public, and a student is always able to choose which route they want to take,” Willerton said. “We also don’t use ‘guilty or innocent;’ we use ‘responsible or not responsible’ [for violating the standards].”

Willerton also described the “expectation of responsibility” for when students breaking rules contact authorities to help friends in danger, or the “expectation that students will take care of each other.”

“It involves proactively getting help, staying with the individual while they get help, and cooperating with the authority there,” he said. “They will not be placed on disciplinary status.”

However, Willerton clarified that even if students are not disciplined, the Office of Community Standards would want to meet with them.

“[We want] to talk to that student, to ask them what was going on, and, ‘How do we support you?’” Willerton said. “We want to provide help.”

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