Conduct board report reflects turbulent spring

The Student Conduct Summary Report, released this summer, showed an increase in drug cases, as well as sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and hazing cases between the previous fall and spring semesters and preceding years, prompting this year’s Student Conduct Board and University Conduct Board to alter their hearing and investigative protocols.

The University Conduct Board, comprised of two faculty members and one Student Conduct Board member, all rotating, tends to see more sensitive cases pertaining to the overall university welfare, whereas the Student Conduct Board deals with day-to-day hearings and common problems.

According to the report, which can be found online, there were 376 cases reported in the spring semester, compared to 191 cases in the fall semester, that were seen by either the Student Conduct Board or University Conduct Board.

Of the 376 cases, there were 258 counts of “not responsible” and 118 counts of “responsible” issued by the boards. In the Student Conduct Reports of previous years, the number of people found responsible and not responsible tended to be even. However, there were a few anomalies found in the 2011-2012 report.

“There was an increase in the drug cases, particularly marijuana cases, but we will just have to wait and see if that’s a trend or if that was just kind of an anomaly. It’s my impression that we had a few groups of students with multiple cases and that seemed to be what was driving [the statistics] last year rather than this pervasive use,” said David Tuttle, dean of students and co-advisor to the Student Conduct Board.

In addition to an increase in drug cases, there were also some fluctuations in the amount of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct cases due to last year’s incident involving three Greek organizations that were tried by the University Conduct Board for sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. In relation to the Greek incident, 20 cases of sexual misconduct were heard, as well as 20 cases of sexual harassment and 20 cases of hazing. Out of those 60 cases, the board issued a ruling of “responsible” in three hazing cases.

Outside of these 60 cases, approximately six other sexual harassment-related incidents occurred, but were not seen by either the Student Conduct Board or the University Conduct Board. The reason these incidents did not result in charges is unknown, but Tuttle did not see the lack of action as good news.

“I know we had sexual assaults, and so the question is, are people comfortable or not going through the process?” Tuttle said.

Tuttle also reviewed the unique disposition of both of the boards last year in terms of their review of cases and findings because 31 percent of spring cases were issued a “responsible” decision.

“I think that overall the student conduct board last year tended to be a little more lenient, and then I think in the case of the Greek hearings last year, at least related to the sexual misconduct thing, there was just some trepidation about finding people responsible for [sexual misconduct or sexual harassment] if it wasn’t more clear cut,” Tuttle said.

Members of the board agreed with Tuttle.

“I felt like we approached it not assuming that anyone there was actually in trouble, and I think that came through especially when you compare the first semester’s report to the second semester’s report, where we actually had a lot more people who were found not responsible in the second semester,” said Jeremy Erdman, junior and co-chair of the Student Conduct Board.

“I just found that when we were doing it last semester we had a lot more large groups where a lot of the kids were brought in but not actually involved “¦ I was even surprised by how many were found not responsible when I looked at the report later,” Erdman said.

Partially due to the imbalance of verdicts, new protocols are being instated for this year. According to the Student Conduct Board co-chairs, there will be more preliminary investigation conducted by members of both boards, where they will interact with accused parties on a more personal level, getting both sides of the story before bringing a case to trial. Residential Life staff or faculty may also be brought in to fact check and prevent students from unnecessary involvement in a case.

“I think the new protocols are going to help because, like Jeremy said before, the numbers of not responsible are a little inflated because there were so many people brought in who may not have been involved,” said Megan Kruse, junior and co-chair of the Student Conduct Board.

“There are cases, mostly for respect for community charges or noise violations, where most people weren’t involved, they were just present while it was going on. Still, everyone is brought in and everyone tells their story and everyone is brought in. Doing things this way will help to make that distinction and save everyone a lot of time.”