Conduct code faces changes

Heather L. Mueller

Students may face on-campus restrictions for off-campus behavior if amendments to the University’s Student Conduct Code pass in December.

Substantial changes to the code include extending the reach of University authorities to off-campus student conduct and adding further punishments to on-campus actions.

The Office of the President is reviewing the draft amendments this week. It will be reviewed by the Board of Regents at its November meeting and will likely move for a vote in December.

Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for the Office of Student Affairs, said University jurisdiction will be extended to include off-campus conduct if two factors are involved in an incident. There would need to be a substantial University interest in an activity that is illegal or involves the health, safety or security of students on campus.

Rinehart said the term -substantial University interest – is vague, so reasonable discretion can be applied.

“My perspective is it’s adding a common sense clause to the code,” he said.

Rinehart said updated changes to the code are necessary to protect the community and the University’s name.

Max Page, president of the Minnesota Student Association, said MSA questioned the possible extension of the code to off-campus jurisdiction.

“We wanted to make sure this wasn’t to go after or witch hunt for students with personal vendettas or anything like that,” he said.

Page said the environment that students function in extends beyond campus boundaries, and the Student Conduct Code should reflect that.

“This will make us more responsible with our behavior everywhere we go,” he said. “The policy is not applied just to riots now. If nothing else, it gives the University more options in extreme circumstances.”

The behavior must be illegal and of high enough stature to prompt action by campus officials, Rinehart said. The University’s intent is not to get involved in minor off-campus crimes such as speeding tickets or underage drinking, he said.

“We’re not going to be processing students for those activities,” Rinehart said.

Situations such as rape involving two students in the same class or a student stalking a professor are situations to which substantial University interest may play a role in the judicial process, Rinehart said.

The University could also get involved if a student died or was injured in a home that sold alcohol to underage students, he said.

Some students, like psychology first-year Tamay Sims, want more concrete examples of what is right and wrong according to the possible amendments.

The code “should say if they do this action, they will be punished,” she said.

The current changes will not affect the structure of due process or appeals provisions, however, new actions deemed to be of substantial University interest may be brought before the judicial board, Rinehart said.

If accepted, the new off-campus code will be applied to the existing Riot Policy and Hazing Policy, which are being rolled into the proposed code.

New punishments

Also being discussed by the board are possible additions to code sanctions for on-campus violations. They could include restricted transcript access, University housing suspension or expulsion, degree or diploma withholding and revocation of admission or a degree.

Rinehart said the University applied these sanctions in the past even though they were not printed in the code, but wants these restrictions in writing.

Suzanne Sobotka, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, said the draft lays out punishments for violating the code, but it doesn’t have definite sentencing guidelines.

“GAPSA wishes it was more clear exactly what happens to students when something goes wrong or exactly what they can and cannot be punished for,” Sobotka said.

The Office of the General Counsel wrote the draft amendments after system-wide meetings with the members of the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of the President, Rinehart said.

GAPSA, MSA and the Senate Consultative Committee all expressed concerns that were included in the discussions, Rinehart said.

The Regents Student Conduct Code applies to all University of Minnesota campuses, though each campus will decide how it will be used.

The code was adopted in 1970 and previously amended in 1974, 1994 and 2003.