WMU News

Trustees approve revamped student code

April 23, 1999

KALAMAZOO--A completely rewritten Student Code was approved by Western Michigan University's Board of Trustees during its meeting April 23.

The code, which was last updated in 1994, describes the boundaries of acceptable student behavior as well as students' basic and academic rights.

"Higher education institutions use student codes in part to encourage an open, just and disciplined educational community," said Theresa A. Powell, WMU vice president for student affairs.

"Maintaining civility and harmony on campus helps make the college experience more productive and enjoyable for all students," Powell added. "We have a responsibility to our students to have an updated and responsive Student Code that is reviewed on a regular basis."

WMU's code contains 24 conduct rules and regulations. Among the topics they cover are dishonesty, hazing, theft, credit card misuse, possession of alcohol and drugs, and obscene or harassing communication.

The Office of Student Judicial Affairs is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the code. It has the authority to conduct investigations of alleged infractions and rule on them through established procedures that may or may not include hearings adjudicated by a campus judicial body.

About 2,500 cases are processed annually. Students found to be in violation of the code are subject to sanctions that are primarily educational in nature and run the gamut from a warning to expulsion.

Dr. David W. Parrott, WMU associate dean of students, said efforts to revise the Student Code began this past May. The year-long process involved several steps, including an extensive review of codes at other colleges and universities, research into legal issues, and input from a wide variety of student groups, University offices and administrators.

"Many students felt the old code was difficult to read and interpret," Parrott said. "Some students also complained that the process was cumbersome and hard to navigate."

To alleviate those and other concerns, he said WMU chose to revamp the existing Student Code. Particular attention was paid to protecting the rights of students while at the same time simplifying and speeding up the procedure for resolving cases, incorporating current national standards of the student judicial affairs profession, and taking into account timely issues, such as new technology and governmental requirements.

"What students have told us is that the new Student Code is easier to read and to grasp and seems friendlier," Parrott said. "What administrators have told us is that the University's behavior expectations seem to be clearer and the process for resolving cases seems easier to understand in the new Student Code."

He noted that revamping the code has had other benefits as well. The project allowed the University to include perspectives from multiple campus constituencies, provide for more efficient use of resources and enhance the focus on student learning and development.

In addition, Parrott said key points about the judicial process have been emphasized in the code's introduction.

"The introduction makes its clear that the student judicial system is an educational process, not a criminal process," Parrott said. "It only deals with alleged violations of University rules and regulations.

"But enrolling at WMU doesn't insulate students from their obligation to behave in a manner consistent with local, state and federal law," he continued. "The introduction emphasizes that violating a law while on University premises is a Student Code violation and that some off-campus behavior may also fall under the code."

According to the document, WMU is empowered to take action in off-campus situations when misconduct demonstrates flagrant disregard for a person or persons or when a student's or a student organization's behavior is judged to threaten the health, safety and/or property of an individual or group.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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