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Infractions consistent over last three years

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, November 17, 2005

Mention “ResLife” among a group of Notre Dame students and a chorus of voices will undoubtedly jump in, eager to share a tale or two.

But how many students have actually been there? And what are they really there for?

Statistics released by the Office of Residence Life and Housing show relatively consistent numbers for the past three academic years – which followed major changes to the University’s alcohol policy in the spring of 2002.

During the 2004-05 academic year, 1,019 disciplinary incidents were reported to the Office of Residence Life and Housing, compared to 1,074 cases during the 2003-04 year and 1,246 cases during the 2002-03 year.

“It’s my impression that Notre Dame has a low safety net,” said Kelly Lawrence, assistant director of the Office of Alcohol and Drug Education. “Students are probably more likely to go through the disciplinary system and alcohol education system here than at other schools, maybe for more minor problems that would be ignored if we had a student population of 30,000.”

And a fair number of them go through it again. During the 2004-05 academic year, 32 percent of disciplinary incidents reported to the Office of Residence Life and Housing were for students with repeat violations. That number was 35.4 percent in 2003-04 and 31.1 percent in 2002-03.

Recent trends

Four violations – intoxication, parking violations, off-campus arrest and abusive drinking – have been among the top five violations reported during the past three years.

Intoxication accounted for 21.2 percent of the disciplinary incidents sent to the Office of Residence Life and Housing during the 2004-05 academic year. Parking violations accounted for 12.2 percent, off-campus arrest for 11.7 percent, computer usage for 11 percent and abusive drinking for 9.6 percent.

The most recent trend has been an increase in computer usage violations – meaning downloading material in violation of copyright laws, Director of Residence Life and Housing Jeff Shoup said.

“We’re contacted by the people that hold the copyright and who are making a complaint about students who are infringing on them,” Shoup said. “We contact the student, tell them immediately to cease and desist the media that they’re viewing. Some of them don’t even realize that the material they’ve downloaded is copyrighted or protected in some way.”

Shoup said in this scenario, the student would likely be called in for “more of a conversation” and sent to the Office of Information Technology to have his or her machine cleaned.

Parietals incidents were the sixth most reported violation during each of the three years – 5.9 percent of cases during the 2004-05 and 2003-04 academic years, 4.2 percent in 2002-03.

Reported violations of the University’s sexuality code, however, are few and far between, ranging from one to three incidents per year.

The two most common sanctions are a monetary fine, administered in 35.4 percent of the incidents during the 2004-05 academic year, and alcohol assessment, administered in 17.6 percent of the incidents during the 2004-05 year.

And as for the most serious sanctions – the numbers are small.

One student was permanently dismissed during the 2003-04 academic year. No students were dismissed during the 2002-03 year or during the 2004-05 year.

Twelve students were suspended during the 2004-05 academic year, compared to seven during the 2003-04 year and 10 during the 2002-03 year.

“I think one of those common misconceptions is how many people get suspended,” Shoup said. “Since I’ve been here we’ve had three or four have to leave campus … 20 is about the most since I’ve been here. Permanent dismissals … That’s about equal to one or two, every other year. Those tend to be sexual assault cases, drugs, maybe a very serious theft, or repeated kind of behavior, where maybe they’ve already been suspended once and have the same kind of behavior. But those are pretty rare.”

The numbers of students forced to move off campus varied somewhat over the past three years – 14 during the 2004-05 academic year, six in 2003-04 and nine in 2002-03.

The statistics show that male sophomores are the most frequent ResLife offenders. Last year, 67.4 percent of disciplinary incidents involved males. The gender breakdown changes little from year to year – 69.9 percent of incidents involved males in 2003-04, compared to 65.6 percent in 2002-03.

During the past three years, sophomores have paid the most visits to the Office of Residence Life and Housing, accounting for 31.9 percent of reported disciplinary incidents during the 2004-05 academic year, 24.7 percent during 2003-04 and 28.1 percent during 2002-03.

Freshmen are consistently the class with the second-largest proportion of reported disciplinary incidents – 25.4 percent in 2004-05, 23 percent in 2003-04 and 27.9 percent in 2002-03.

Codes of conduct

duLac may be unique to Notre Dame, but the ideas within are not.

The disciplinary policies of two of Notre Dame’s peer institutions, Georgetown and Boston College, are for the most part strikingly similar to those outlined in duLac.

Georgetown’s Code of Conduct emphasizes community, a duLac tenet.

“When order is absent or disrupted, not only are individuals harmed, but the community suffers too,” Georgetown’s Code of Conduct reads.

It also contains language about harm to the community that is only slightly less vague than duLac’s community clauses, promising sanctions for “actions or attempted actions that obstruct, interfere or could result in harm to others and/or the university community regardless of intent.”

Like Notre Dame administrators, the Code stresses the importance of education rather than discipline.

“The student discipline system is designed to be an educational system and does not function as a court of law,” it states.

Georgetown’s Code breaks its violations down into three classifications – Category A, B and C – based on seriousness.

Category A violations include underage possession or consumption of alcohol, defacement, disorderly conduct, possession of drug paraphernalia and “being in the presence of the use of a counterfeit or controlled substance.”

These violations “typically include a combination of sanctions ranging from a fine and/or work sanction hours coupled with educational classes/projects, referral to appropriate community resource, and/or party restriction up to and including housing relocation or housing probation,” the Code reads.

Category B violations range from misrepresentation of age in order to obtain alcohol, to provision of alcohol to underage persons, to sexual misconduct, to use of drug paraphernalia and use or possession of a counterfeit or controlled substance.

The sanction for a Category B violation involves, at minimum, housing relocation. It could mean a disciplinary suspension lasting up to two years.

Finally, the most serious violations – Category C – mean “a student would likely receive, minimally, disciplinary suspension or could be dismissed from the University,” the Code reads.

These violations include arson, physical assault, sexual assault and manufacturing or possessing a counterfeit or controlled substance with intent to distribute.

The “Behavioral Standards and Policies” section of Boston College’s Student Guide is organized alphabetically by violation.

Like Notre Dame, it refers explicitly to sexual union outside marriage, an action that “that may be subject to sanction as conduct unbecoming a Boston College student.”

And like Notre Dame, its sanctions range from fines to dismissal from the university, which requires “that the student completely sever any and all connection with Boston College.”

Boston College does outline minimum sanctions for certain violations. For example, possessing a “central alcohol source” – like kegs or punch bowls – or excessive amounts of alcohol means housing probation for those over 21 years of age, one semester housing suspension for those under 21.

One area where Notre Dame does seem to differ is in drug policies.

At Boston College, possession of small quantities of Class D drugs like marijuana means housing probation and visits to the Alcohol and Drug Education Program. At Georgetown, a student in possession might be suspended – but also might just be put on housing probation or housing suspension.

At Notre Dame, however, that same possession means a student “shall result in disciplinary suspension or dismissal.”

So is Notre Dame stricter than other schools? Or more lenient?

While the policies may seem the same, they’re just words. It’s hard to judge how the schools match up, even when comparing numbers.

“The challenge is that because each of our schools enforces the policies somewhat differently or has a different policy in general, numbers are somewhat meaningless,” said Stephanie Quade, Associate Dean of Student Development at Marquette University. “Our people would be quick to tell you our alcohol policy starts at a low level. We begin looking in the presence of alcohol and document everything from the ground up.”

Marquette’s Code of Conduct was not available for review.

The numbers may not show everything about enforcement, but many Notre Dame students attest to a recent crackdown – a trend they say is pushing them off campus. The sixth part of this series will examine the future of Notre Dame with regards to its rules and regulations.