Conduct code changes could create double jeopardy

As outrage over last weekend’s riots spreads out from campus, so might the University’s jurisdiction over its students. University officials are considering expanding the student disciplinary code to include off-campus behavior. The change could result in the immediate suspension of students involved in future violence following athletics events. While officials consider possible code changes, any proposal to extend the University’s jurisdiction to discipline students for off-campus conduct would be an uncomfortable reach, subjecting students to an unfair double jeopardy. As public pressure for harsh measures grows, the administration – as well as student leaders, including Minnesota Student Association President Joshua Colburn – should resist the temptation to pursue such a policy.

For students not affiliated with intercollegiate athletics or the school band, the current code covers only on-campus behavior. The code correctly recognizes the dual role University students play in our civic culture and does not penalize students for their unique situation. While on campus, students are expected to follow the law and abide by the unique standards required by the University. Once off campus, however, University students are merely private citizens that should be subject to the same laws as everyone else; expanding the University code of conduct’s jurisdiction to non-University areas would effectively create two punishment systems – one for University students and one for everyone else. A beefed-up punishment code for University students would only be discriminatory and burdensome.

What happened Saturday night was deplorable and in many cases criminal. It was also deeply embarrassing for the University. But as many have pointed out, those involved were not representatives of the student body or the University. As the University considers its course, they should not be treated as such. The University should let the state judicial process take its course and not subject students to an ever-present secondary standard of disciplinary review.