Administration targets students

By Mike Fox

Raise your hand if you or a friend of yours was punished for an alcohol related incident. Over 5,000 hands should be raised right now, though every year, just under 5,000 citations are issued for alcohol related infractions.

This number of 5,000 represents just two-thirds of the actual cases brought up for infractions. Additionally, from the period of 2001-2002 to 2006-2007, there has been an increase of 324 percent in residential hall alcohol violations.

So, this is college. People have fun, people party, people drink. It would only seem normal that so many people get caught. If anything, it demonstrates that our system works, that people who break the rules get punished. Right?

The University of Michigan has twice the population than that of the University of Massachusetts and is similar in the stigma attached to student life at UMass. But the University of Michigan only carries 300 to 400 violations a year. UMass’ numbers seem a little off.

The statistics cited above are from the Dean of Students office, a body whose responsibilities include discipline. Discipline is, of course, determined by the Code of Student Conduct. Discipline is essential to any institution, especially one as chaotic as a university often is.

For decades UMass has had a reputation of being a party school, notoriously ranked as the ninth best party school by the Princeton Review in 2005. Over the past few years, UMass hasn’t even ranked in the top 20 of national party schools, but that doesn’t mean on the weekends you won’t find hordes of students migrating around campus, dressed up in their finest, searching for a place to engage in extracurricular social activities.

However, this is no reason for the school to engage sometime draconian or inappropriately severe disciplinary measures. Consider this commonly told hypothetical: A student has a bunch of friends in her dorm room, they make a large deal of noise, the Resident Assistant comes by and busts up the gathering, the RA spots a can of empty beer sitting on a shelf, and everyone gets written up. The host student is sitting in their disciplinary hearing and luckily is found not responsible, but the citation sits on their record for seven years. The student is now long graduated and applies for a federal job but is rejected because of their citation and the federal government’s strict policy with alcohol and records.

This chain of events represents a system of punishment that stands as punitive over educational. Universities exist as institutions dedicated to higher learning, but sadly, and too often, this mission is lost in the name of the institution furiously chasing after a form of systemic stability. When a school loses its ability to consider the personal aspects of each case that comes its way, a student loses their sense of membership of the school.

Most schools have a three-strike system that accounts for mistakes in the system. Our school brings you straight to hearings that often result in punishment and the lingering black mark on one’s record.

Many other issues exist in our disciplinary system. Local police departments have sent student infractions that have taken place off campus to the Dean of Student’s office. This violates privacy standards as established by Criminal Record Offender Information (CORI) standards.

Students who are caught on campus with a gram of marijuana (a decriminalized amount of the substance) receive greater punishment than those under 21 who are caught with alcohol (a criminal possession).

The goals of the Code of Student Conduct are without a doubt beneficial. Standards should exist at a school. Rules are meant to be followed. However, unbending rules that cast disproportionately large shadows over people’s lives do no help anyone.

The governing documents of the school give students the responsibility to enforce and review their own code of conduct. This is a cause that every student should be considerably concerned in. It is something that impacts students every day, and judging by the statistics, it impacts a disproportionate amount.

Perhaps, if students can find the time to get involved with campus rules, it will demonstrate to those in the administration a willingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions. This would make considerable headway in transforming the image of our campus from a chaotic mess to one with responsible young adults that truly understand the impact that their actions have on themselves and others.

With communication and both the administration and students willing to come together to take a close look at the Code of Student Conduct, a truly just system that places proper responsibility on all sides can be achieved.

Mike Fox is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]