May 24, 2019 | 60° F

RUSA meeting introduces newly proposed student code of conduct

Photo by Declan Intindola |

Kevin Pitt, director of the Office of Student Conduct, speaks at the RUSA meeting and presents future changes to the department’s policies, including a more streamlined approach to student discipline that, if ratified, will be in effect on July 1. 

At the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) meeting yesterday, directors from the Office of Student Conduct gave a presentation on the updates to its codes that the office has been working on.

Kevin Pitt, director of the Office of Student Conduct and a Class of 2002 Rutgers graduate, said the codes had not been updated for approximately six years, prior to the current move to make changes.

“The campus has changed,” Pitt said.

He explained that as more and more diverse students have come to Rutgers, the policies in place need to update to reflect those changes. He said he charged his staff with looking over the current policies and recommending changes.

In the current process, the office has talked to 165 students and has had five campus meetings, including meetings with staff from Rutgers—Newark, Rutgers—Camden and Rutgers—New Brunswick, Pitt said. 

Some of the updates that are being worked on include changes to the language in its code.

“Our policy can’t be so confusing that students are not willing to advocate for themselves because it’s so confusing,” Pitt said. “If you’re being referred, you need to know what you’re being referred to and what possibly could happen.”

The office strived to simplify the language of the code, modernize it, save time for students and workers and allow staff to be more innovative, he said.

Stephanie Wright, assistant director of the Office of Student Conduct, said changes are also being made to revise and simplify the language of the medical amnesty policy. 

She also said changes are being made to the appeals process to make the process more comprehensive.

Changes to Appeal Process and Appeal Committee 

The directors also revised the current appeal process. Wright said that the current process carries too much anxiety for students. If a report is filed against a student at any degree of misconduct, the student is called into the office for an initial meeting, and then after the discussion, is told that they have to return at a later date when the decision of their case is finalized. Wright said this process is intimidating, stress inducing and time consuming for the student in question. 

The new policy will take issues they deem as more trivial and minute and deal with them differently instead of lumping large scale infractions and minor offenses in the same procedure protocol. Students with charges deemed minor will be notified of the reports filed against them along with their sanctions through email. A physical meeting will only be required if the student wishes to repeal the sanctions. 

There will also be modifications to the composition of the appeals committee. The structure currently involves two students and one faculty officer on the committee. The way the policy works now is that if a member of the committee cannot attend the hearing, it is rescheduled in a “no show, no hearing” fashion. 

The new code calls for an ad hoc committee in which, with consent from the student on trial, a nominated presiding hearing officer will make a decision in the case that an appeals committee member is not present on the day of the hearing.  

The elimination of the warning sanction from the Office of Student Conduct is another revisement to the code. Since all reports, even warnings, are ironed onto a student’s record, Wright said that it is unnecessary for a student to have a record with their office for just a simple warning for something minor. In addition, she said this amendment will remove the need for students to physically come to their office just to be told that they have a warning, when they could be in class, work or an internship. 

The directors said they added a loss of housing sanction as well. 

Expungement of Expungements

A notable change in policy is the expungement of expungements. Currently, students who hold a misconduct record with the office have the opportunity to petition for their record to be cleared after an allotted time has passed. The new policy removes this option. 

Wright said that currently, if a student’s petition for expungement gets approved, the University technically still has the record on a different file, and is required by law to disclose that information if asked to do so by the state, an employer or a graduate school admissions board. 

The Six Additional Charges 

There are six additional possible charges that students can face in the new code. These include animal abuse, child abuse, false identification, misuse of identification, drug and alcohol charges and a new issue that has been brought to the office’s attention — University ticket resale. 

The office has received an abundant amount of complaints from the student body with regard to unjust ticket resales, including screenshots of Facebook users that partake in it. This refers to tickets that are provided by the University being resold at a significantly higher price after the allocated tickets are sold out. This includes Rutgers football game tickets and on-campus concert tickets, Wright said.

“We’re talking about folks that are abusing the system,” Pitt said.

This motion to condemn the resale of tickets comes shortly after Rutgers University Programming Association presented Metro Boomin as the artist for its annual Beats on the Banks event, an already sold concert that has sparked a wave of resale for higher prices. 

Wright said the directors are well aware of the resale of tickets online, what she called “the black market.”

When students face charges like ticket resale or misuse of identification, the directors said they would like to take a different approach to sanctions. Instead of the typical punishments like probation and being reprimanded, Wright said the new code will adopt more restorative sanctions, such as service hours and educational requirements on a case by case basis for each misconduct. 

Drug and Alcohol Policy Clarification 

Elaborating on the idea of more simplistic language in the code of conduct, Wright said there is often much confusion around the drug and alcohol policy. This was in reference to situations in which a student is hesitant to call for help in the case that his or her peer is inebriated to the point of endangerment to their health and safety. 

We want clear written expectations and responsibilities, she said. 

“We don’t want you to hope and pray that (intoxicated peers) wake up the next morning. We don’t want to lose a student that way,” she said. 

What is next?

More presentations like the one at RUSA, Wright said. The directors plan to travel to different organization’s meetings including ones at the Newark and Camden campuses to educate students, faculty and staff on the new proposed code of conduct. After communities from all campuses are informed of the initiative policies, the new code will advance to seek the Board of Governor’s final approval in June. If endorsed by the board, the new policies will be officially implemented on July 1. 

Then begins the publicizing, Pitt said. Given that all the policies pass approval and the new law is enforced, the directors will begin to advertise the new code of conduct through a variety of different methods that will reach all corners of the community. Pitt said that in addition to blast emails and website updates of the new policy, the office will work with Residence Life to broadcast new policies to the student body through informational bulletin boards in residence halls and educational RA floor meetings. 

Some legislation was voted on too. The RUSA Allocations Process Transparency Act passed by a vote of 39-1-2. The bill to approve the 2018-19 Allocations Board passed unanimously and the Bill to support the Rutgers Student Food Pantry passed unanimously as well.

The preliminary Spring 2018 election results were released on Wednesday, according to The Daily Targum. Currently there are still ongoing appeals. The certification deadline is April 10, according to the release preliminary results.

Ryan Stiesi

Erica D'Costa

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