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Big Ten schools get tough on discipline

BY KATHRYN STINSON | DECEMBER 18, 2009 7:30 AM

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At most Big Ten universities, a list of students’ off-campus misdemeanor charges lands on a dean’s desk every Monday morning.

UI officials are looking to follow suit and implement a policy that allows them to discipline students for off-campus drinking violations.

Thomas Rocklin, the UI interim vice president for Student Services, said the new procedure will help keep students safe and improve relations with city officials.

The UI Code of Student Life states that sanctions cannot be issued in alcohol cases that occur off-campus unless it is at a university-sponsored event.

That contrasts with policies in place at a majority of Big Ten schools, whose codes explicitly state that off-campus, underage alcohol consumption will not be tolerated and could result in consequences from the school.

At the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, officials respond to off-campus incidents because the majority of their students live and socialize there, said Brian Fraber, an associate dean of students. No geographic limitation is cited in their code, he said.

“Most of our violent, abusive, and harassing behaviors are related to alcohol intoxication,” Fraber wrote in an e-mail. “Our campus would like to intervene to avoid larger problems in the future.”

The Illinois university staffs two full-time hearing officers, one part-time officer, and one part-time investigator to process disciplinary cases.

Other schools, including the University of Minnesota, review offenses on a case-by-case bases. At Minnesota, students likely won’t face consequences for a first offense, said Daniel Wolter, the director of the school’s news service.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison enforces a similar policy.

Four students died from alcohol-related causes during the last school year. Since then, officials have revised their policies, said Ervin Cox, assistant dean of students.

Wisconsin students only face formal disciplinary action for off-campus drinking incidents when they result in a trip to the hospital, an assault occurs, previous disciplinary history is on record, or alcohol was provided to a minor who needed medical care.

The Madison campus is dealing with 57 open misconduct cases, 49 of which are alcohol-related.

The UI Office of Student Conduct is smaller than those at several Big Ten universities. The office employs four people, two of whom have responsibilities outside that office, Rocklin wrote the DI in an e-mail on Nov. 11.

Revising the policy shouldn’t put a significant strain on the Student Services Office, he said, noting it hired one additional staff member this year.

“A policy that expands beyond the borders of our campus has the potential to help address community concerns,” Rocklin said.


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