Friday, February 26, 2010

Student Conduct Code

Recent events have led faculty to call the office to ask about the student conduct code, potentially violent students, and how to file complaints.

Student Conduct is governed by the Student Code of Conduct policy, which can be found at http://www.pdx.edu/dos/conduct. Therein lies the procedure for any member of the community to address student misconduct issues.

The procedure requires the complainants to identify themselves; the online Student Conduct Complaint Form (https://pdx-jams.symplicity.com/public_report/) explicitly states that the form will be read by the student. Unfortunately, there are no provisions for confidentiality, nor are there exceptions for complaints against students who are potentially dangerous and who may retaliate for the filing of a complaint. While the procedure has specific provisions for sexual offenses and academic dishonesty, there is no special provision for offenses that involve weapons or violence.

When a complaint is filed, it is reviewed by a “Senior Conduct Officer.” If this individual does not find the complaint “reasonable,” it is dismissed. After the filing of a complaint, the policy does not provide for the complainant to get any feedback or response from the university regarding outcomes, including whether the complaint has been dismissed. A complainant trying to address a potentially dangerous student will never know if the danger was contained or dismissed. While the process is supposed to “make an effort to consider the rights and needs of the Complainant in decisions related to sanctions such as restitution,” it is not required to communicate about those efforts. This is disturbing when one considers there appears to be no prohibition against retaliation for the filing of a complaint. Further, the policy does not guarantee or even speak to the safety of the Complainant.

There are procedures for emergency action “if the Dean of Students determines that a Student presents a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the Student or others.” (577-031-0138)In light of recent campus violence across the country, the Association is concerned that “significant risk of substantial harm” may no longer be a reasonable measure to contain potentially dangerous students. Is a significant risk acceptable if the harm is not substantial? The parents of our students would expect that threshold to be any harm, and the risk threshold to be substantially lower than significant.