Student conduct report presented to ASG

Allegheny experienced an increase in expulsions in the last academic year, according to Joseph DiChristina, dean of students. From 2009 to 2013, there were no expulsions and an average of less than five students per year were suspended. In the 2013-2014 academic year, four students were removed permanently from the college. All expulsions were cases involving sexual assaults.

Also in the 2013-2014 academic year, eight students were suspended for a period of one to four semesters; six cases involved sexual misconduct and two were alcohol related.

DiChristina presented the Student Conduct Report to Allegheny Student Government on Oct. 21. Jeffrey Schneider, head of safety and security, Jacquie Kondrot, associate dean of students and sexual harassment officer and Joe Hall, director of student conduct and development, were also in attendance.

The Student Conduct Report is a report that looks at academic and nonacademic infractions from the five previous academic years. Academic infractions are honor code violations and nonacademic infractions deal with violations of general campus policies.

According to DiChristina, the increase in expulsions is due to more students bringing information to administration’s radar.

“In the years leading up to last year, there was more training going on on campus, in particular bystander training,” DiChristina said. “We saw students helping their peers find resources and actually people interfering and stopping predator behavior. I think in the student culture now there is that real sense of empowerment, to be able to assist peers when something isn’t right, to encourage peers to get resources when they hear of some kind of misconduct or some kind of sexual assault. So that’s what we saw last year, peers getting peers to come forward and supporting each other and that’s a significant difference.”

ASG Senator Kevin Crooks, ’15, does not see a student culture change from day to day, but believes the statistics show students reporting more often.

“I don’t know if it’s a positive thing that we’re expelling four people last year and we haven’t in the last five years,” Crooks said. “That to me says that our campus culture is decreasing because if we haven’t had to do that in five years, why are we doing it four times this year. What’s changing? Is our student conduct policy getting stricter and we’re just not noticing or did they really think that those people weren’t a fit for Allegheny? I don’t know. I feel like sometimes we like to put numbers out there that are leading to a conclusion when we’re forgetting about other aspects of the numbers. Like four people being expelled last year could be a positive thing or a negative thing. Joe [DiChristina] is taking that as a positive thing, but we need to look at it from the other side too.”

From the fall of 2009 to May 2014, the average number of individual, nonacademic cases per year was 304. Fifty-five percent were first year students, 25 percent were second year, 15 percent were third year and the last two to three percent were fourth year students. Ten percent of cases were repeat offenders.

According to the Student Conduct Report, the last five year period has seen a gradual decline in students put on probation. The number dropped from 94 students put on probation in the 2011-2012 academic year to 59 in the 2013-2014 academic year. Students can be put on probation for use of marijuana, significant alcohol infractions, repeat behaviors that do not harm others and harassing behaviors. Harassing behaviors can include texting when not wanted by another student.

Between 2009 and 2013, there was an average of 30 to 34 academic infraction cases. In the 2013-2014 academic year, that number doubled to 61 individual cases. Of those cases, 25 were due to plagiarism, 34 were due to unauthorized assistance and two dealt with students leaving academic buildings while exams were in progress. Students bringing in notes or asking other students for answers qualify as unauthorized assistance.

DiChristina credits this increase in cases to a process the college instituted three years ago that allows for first offenders to have a meeting with their professor, the dean of students and a representative from the Honor Code Committee.

“In general, it’s first year students…So what’s happened for faculty is they’re turning those cases in more often now because it’s not a cumbersome process,” DiChristina said. “And that was the intent of all of this was really to try and stay focused on this as educational and not get us stuck in a bureaucratic system because when you have hearing panels, it takes two or three weeks to get through something that could be a two to three page paper with a small amount plagiarized. And with the nature of systems, it just takes awhile. So this was one way to deal with that. What we see now with the increase of faculty reporting more and some students are starting to report more too.”

Professor of English Ben Slote believes this expedited process has been beneficial to faculty for reporting more cases.

“I was Associate Dean for four years until two years ago and I talked with faculty then about this,” Slote said. “I have a pretty broad sense of faculty appreciating this because in the old days it was kind of an ordeal for everybody and that was almost the point of it….but it was a lot of time.”

The increase of academic and nonacademic infractions reported in the last year, compared to previous reports, is mostly credited to an increase of awareness among students and a change in college policies. The Student Conduct Report compiles data on these infractions which is presented annually to the student body by the dean of students at the beginning of every year.