Code of Conduct Changes Seek Final Review

On Tuesday, April 17, Associate Dean of Students for Student Conduct Matthew Clifford provided a much-anticipated overview of the Student Code of Conduct revision process.

Clifford’s talk addressed the ins and outs of the revision process for the Student Code of Conduct, including how the Code of Conduct Review Committee has considered student feedback when proposing revisions and what steps must be taken before the revised Code of Conduct is finally approved. For Clifford, ensuring that the Code of Conduct revision process is transparent and includes student input is key.

“Last year, it was really evident to me that students wanted to be involved in this process, so we made sure they were represented in the Code of Conduct Review Committee,” Clifford said.

The Code of Conduct Review Committee is made up of students, faculty and  staff, with Clifford and Dean of Students Adam Goldstein serving as ex-officio members.

“It was critical to get a variety of perspectives on the Committee and we wanted pushback because it leads to greater understanding of the policies,” Clifford said.

The Committee’s most recent round of proposed revisions — which include updates to policies on harassment, disruption, and disorderly conduct — follow a semester-long period of public feedback. Clifford held forums and recieved much student feedback in the fall semester.

During this public comment period, the Code of Conduct Review Committee received 42 comments on policies addressing topics from off-campus parties to harassment. However, 35 of these comments concerned disruption, harassment or disorderly conduct. Because students had the most to say about these policies, Clifford focused on the proposed revisions for these policies in his talk.

The revisions made to the disorderly conduct policy last summer were met with concern from some students. During the public comment period last fall, some students expressed their concern with the language of the revised policy, specifically use of the terms “lewdness” and “breach of peace.” Some also claimed the the revised policy was vague and overbroad.

The revisions made to the disorderly conduct policy this semester define disorderly conduct as  “behavior that unreasonably interferes with the ability of others to sleep, study, or participate in the activities of the university.”

Some students also took issue with last summer’s proposed revisions to the disruption policy. They feared that this revised policy would suppress protests on campus, unfairly target protest methods used by marginalized communities and be inconsistently enforced.

The revisions made to the disruption policy this semester define disruption as those  who fail to “maintain on the campus an atmosphere conducive to scholarly pursuits” and fail to “respect the rights of all individuals.”

Feedback for the harassment policy included the worry that “hate speech” would be considered a policy violation and that the proposed revisions to the harassment policy gives too much power to alleged victims of harassment. In the most recent revision of the harassment policy, the Code of Conduct Review Committee added immigration status, political affiliation and socioeconomic status as identifiers that can serve as the basis for harassment.

In addition to revising the language of various existing policies, the Code of Conduct Review Committee has also made additions to strengthen current policies. Such additions include making hearing panels a requirement for hearings on harassment or disruption and creating a process document that serves as a guideline for student organizations who are planning protests.

All of these proposed revisions and additions to policies in the Student Code of Conduct are made to ensure the revised Code has clarity, consistency and supports the safety of students and the mission of the university.

“Ultimately, we are working to clearly define the minimum expectations of student behavior in the revised Student Code of Conduct because the current Code has inconsistent language,” Clifford said.

For Clifford, conducting a comprehensive review of the Student Code of Conduct was overdue. The revision process began in the fall of 2016 and marks the first comprehensive review since the 1990s. Small changes are made to the Code in annual reviews that are conducted each summer.

Before the revised Student Code of Conduct gets final approval, it must pass through a legal review and receive approval from the Judicial Counsel and Vice President for Campus Life Penny Rue. The Office of the Dean of Students hopes the new Code of Conduct will receive final approval and be implemented before the end of the spring 2018 semester.