by Charlene Cole-Newkirk
I understand that there is some anxiety among members of the community about the Dean of Student's role in policy-making and enforcement regarding student conduct. Please be advised that there will be no change from the past in how we notify students about inspections of their living spaces. We have a perfectly good policy regarding notice and it is expected that every staff member comply with the notice requirements.
The larger issue that many have is about how rules and regulations regarding student behavior are developed by the Deans, Coordinators and Residential Life staff. In recent years, the Student Life Committee and the General Faculty have developed rules and statements in response to specific incidents. The community has not engaged in a broad dialogue about all types of student behavior in many years. The Deans at Oberlin, have traditionally exercised some discretion in policy formation. Enforcement of policy has been left, and quite rightly, to the Community Board, the Judicial Board and the Hearing Officers .
I attempted, last summer, to delete one such Dean-made (a rule made by my predecessor in response to a situation involving lounge furniture in Dascomb that ended up in student's rooms) simply because I thought it was at odds with Federal Law, and other with other provisions of the Regulations. I admit that I only consulted with staff and with our College lawyer. The rule was not deleted from the Student Handbook, the book that we intended to be the source of information about regulations for students, because of an editorial problem. Since it wasn't deleted, I decided that we would wait until a new Associate Dean and Judicial Coordinator was hired, to engage the community in a dialogue about student conduct, the development of a coherent Code of Conduct and Procedures, and a clearly educational response to behavior that is at odds with the values of the institution and the people within it.
I made a mistake. I did not intend to create a crisis of confidence in the Dean. I do not typically make decisions regarding student conduct. I only make decisions regarding student behavior when there is an emergency situation and usually only after I consult with others.
I believe that the students, staff and faculty should look at all of the rules and potential outcomes governing student behavior on a regular basis. Rules, regulations, procedures, responsibilities and outcomes should be clearly defined in our Student Handbook. The Deans' role in this process, should also be defined clearly.
Bill Stackman, our new Associate Dean (and the new Judicial Coordinator), will be approaching members of the Community Board, the Student Senate, the Judicial Board, the Student Life Committee, the General Faculty and the Residential Life staff, to try and identify people who might be interested in working with a Task Force on Student Conduct. This task group will review existing policies and procedures and develop recommendations to the Student Life Committee, the Student Life and Services Office, and the General Faculty.
In addition, the Director of Security, Keith James, will work with the local police, the local prosecutor and the College Attorney, to develop a mutual aid agreement and memorandum of understanding regarding the handling and disposal of illegal substances found on campus during a legal search or found in plain view in a room inspection that occurs according to our existing rules and policies. Many colleges and universities have such agreements with the local authorities. These agreements are intended to clearly outline what our mutual expectation are in any given situations that arises in our respective jurisdictions. Our agreement will be presented to the community through the Security Committee as it is being developed.
In the meantime, there will be no changes in policy, practice or process, by me, the Judicial Bodies, the Residential Life Staff, Security and Safety Staff, or the Deans, without consultation with the community.
I would be happy to talk to anyone about this information at any time. Please feel free to come by my office in 105 Wilder Hall or call me at x8462 to discuss your concerns. My goal is and has always been to be open to criticism, debate and discussion.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 14; February 14, 1997
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