On all college campuses, it is inevitable that there are students who break university rules, with underage drinking being one of the most common ones. However, the approach that university officials take when students don’t act in accordance with rules and policies differs among institutions. At Boston College, students are expected to follow the Student Code of Conduct that the university releases and updates yearly. For this academic year, BC implemented a new policy, “Eagles Care Pledge,” that directly addresses specific guidelines that students must follow due to the pandemic.
According to the Boston College website, “the Student Code of Conduct exists to provide information on these behavioral expectations, and to articulate the process of addressing violations.” While the university operates under a standard set of guidelines, some of the violation definitions and the disciplinary process are rather vague, leaving students to feel worried or confused prior to their conduct meeting.
The first part of a violation of the student code of conduct is the report or the complaint that is made. This can be done by a Residential Life staff member, Boston College police officer, off-campus community liaison, neighbor, fellow student, University official, or the local police department. Once this report is filed, the Office of Student Conduct decides whether or not it wants to proceed with the violation. A student who is considered a subject of the report is notified by their hearing officer which can include staff members of the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Residential Life. Hearing officers can vary depending on the severity of the reported conduct, the student’s history with conduct, the officer’s current workload, and other factors.
While the disciplinary process can be perceived as a negative process that only exists for the purpose of reprimanding BC students, BC highlights that it exists for the purpose of each student’s overall well-being and allows students to grow from their experiences. Melissa Woolsey, an Associate Director at the Office of Student Conduct, states that, “More broadly, the purpose of the student conduct system is to help foster an environment that promotes the intellectual, personal, ethical, psychological, social, and spiritual development of all students.”
Students are able to request their report prior to their hearing and read what was written about them in the situation. Prior to the student’s hearing, a witness and/or an advisor may be requested to be present by the student. The hearing serves as an opportunity for students to respond to the charges against them in the report and present evidence against them. Hearings may be individual or a group of persons involved depending on the circumstances.
Considering the evidence from the report and from the hearings, the hearing officers can determine whether the student is responsible for the perceived violations against them. This decision affects the severity of the consequences that the student will face. These sanctions can range from conversational resolutions—which are for first-time and low-level violations—to university dismissal. Ten days after the hearing, the student will be notified of the sanction and/or the decision made.
If the student believes that there was a violation of the conduct procedure or if there was previously unavailable information, they are able to file an appeal. The appeal officer consults the original hearing officer, witnesses, and the student to make a decision in which their choice is final for the student.
The disciplinary process at Boston College involves the administering of sanctions on a case-by-case basis. For example, two students who are found responsible for the same charge may receive different types and levels of sanctions. This process also results in uncertainty among students as it makes it harder for students to predict their consequence due to inconsistency.
Concerning alcohol and drug use, the Office of Student Conduct strongly encourages help-seeking behavior instead of focusing on a punishment for violating the Student Code of Conduct. Students are able to contact any emergency responders or University officials, including Residential Assistants, to consider the action as help-seeking behavior. While the Boston College administration advocates partaking in this action if needed, students aren’t excused from their other actions that have possibly violated the Student Code of Conduct.
Arguably, the information that Boston College provides to its students in terms of the disciplinary process is vague and results in confusion. Other institutions have a methodology that is more clear and consistent for their students, which Boston College should consider transitioning to.
For example, Hamilton College has a point system in which if students are found violating University rules or policies, they are assigned points based on a detailed table with guidelines. If a student receives a certain amount of points, the University may take action like notifying the student’s guardian or possibly disciplinary probation. However, the university gives the chance for students to redeem themselves and are given “point forgiveness.” While the points that students receive are cumulative, the institution forgives two points from the student’s point total six months after the most recent violation if the student commits no subsequent violations.
Not only does this disciplinary procedure be more consistent and clear among students, it also rewards students for good behavior instead of highlighting the reprimanding of students—a feeling that Boston College’s disciplinary process incites.