Stripping Down What's Next When You're 'Written Up'

It’s a typical Saturday morning brunch in the dining hall (or maybe it’s now turning into the afternoon). You and your friends are discussing the events of the night before, raving about that crazy Mod party, the line outside Walsh, the amazingness of late night mozz sticks and, of course, complaining about getting written up or talking about those who did. Why did so-and-so get written up and not so-and-so? Why did so-and-so have to write an essay while so-and-so had to go to alcohol education classes as punishment? Why does ResLife make such a big deal over nothing?

At Boston College, students experience seemingly constant confusion and conflict over who gets written up, how it happens, why it happens and what happens afterwards. Resident Assistants and Resident Directors have the most accessible and comprehensive knowledge on the process, since they are the ones carrying it out, so detailed questions about the disciplinary process are best directed at them.

For those among us who want the SparkNotes version of the Code of Conduct, here’s the story:

The first thing to know about getting “written up” is that it is technically called “documentation.” The RAs on duty observe the scene, noting everything they see, smell and hear. This includes the details about what kind of alcohol is in the room, how much of it is in each container, what students say and if the students are compliant or not.

The RAs also take a picture of everyone’s students IDs. Soon after, the RAs will write up an incident report with all of the details from above to send to the appropriate Resident Director.

After receiving the incident report, the RD will then schedule a conversation-based meeting with the documented students to talk about what exactly happened at the time of documentation. One RD pointed out that she views this as more of a “caring system,” designed to help and teach students, rather than a “you’re in trouble” kind of system.

That being said, there are a variety of possible consequences for violating the Code of Conduct that depend on several factors such as being underage, past history of documentation, severity of the event and behavior during the time of documentation.

Students may often misunderstand why their friends who got documented at a certain party received different or more harsh consequences than the ones that other friends received at a different party, but it is important to keep in mind that certain friends may have been documented many times in the past or may have resisted when the RAs asked for their IDs.  

Once the RD has considered factors like these and examined all of the facts from the incident report and from the descriptions of the students involved, he or she will decide what kind of “sanction” will be issued.

There are two main types of sanctions: status sanctions and formative sanctions. Status sanctions include actions such as administrative warnings and probationary sanctions. Formative sanctions are focused on educating the individuals on their choices and providing them resources to deal with any problems they may have.

If an RD finds a situation to be serious or concerning, he or she may have students go to the Alcohol and Drug Education Program, which is part of Boston College’s Office of Health Promotion. Here, the trained counselors seek to further educate students, help them overcome alcohol or drug-related problems and encourage students to behave in a way that reflects who they truly are.

Another consequence may be writing a short paper about the experience, which allows students to reflect, learn and grow from the incident rather than giving them a harsher punishment. One RD described that the overall purpose of the consequences for documentations is to place significance on students taking responsibility, getting educated and reflecting on if their behavior represents their ideal character.

It is likely that you or someone you know has had experience with being documented and it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing people’s experiences and complaining about the consequences. Understandably, it can be a frustrating process and a hassle to deal with, but Residential Life does work to find the appropriate consequences for each individual incident.

Now, if anything, you have an extensive understanding of the write-up process to school your friends with at brunch next weekend.

For the complete Student Conduct System, see the Student Guide on the BC website: