Office of Rights and Responsibilities

Philosophy

Guiding Principles

As a residential liberal arts institution, Willamette University is committed to the ideals of both individual autonomy and community citizenship. This means that we recognize and seek to balance the rightful claims of personal freedom and privacy with the needs of membership in the campus at large. We understand students to be citizens of the Willamette academic community, having responsibilities to the whole in addition to rights as individuals. In particular, citizenship flourishes when members of the community live by standards of conduct that embody the ideals of honesty, integrity, civility and mutual respect. As a community of learning, dedicated to open inquiry, we must consistently work to put these ideals into practice.

The University is committed to a shift in theory and practice in the Office of Residence Life. We will extend participation in ways that will increase student responsibility, autonomy, and self-discipline. Now, more than ever, students entering the Willamette community are expected to have earnest goals of self-discovery and maturity and should allow those goals to sustain community standards of conduct that reflect the values that we seek to instill. These values include: thoughtful respect for the rights of others, honesty and integrity in both academic and personal matters, and responsible behavior on and off campus.

Thus, the guiding principles of the reformed judicial program are as follows:

  • Regard each student as an individual deserving individual attention, consideration and respect.
  • Consider the facts fully and carefully before resolving any case.
  • Speak candidly and honestly to each student.
  • Hold each student to a high standard of behavior, both to protect the campus community and to promote student personal and interpersonal development.
  • Recognize the reality of human fallibility, as well as the stresses associated with collegiate life, and to demonstrate compassion, understanding and a sense of humor.
  • Contribute to the educational mission of the University by designing policies, conducting programs and offering instruction that contributes to the intellectual and social development of the entire student body.

* This text was taken from the greeting of former Dean Robert Hawkinson in the Student Handbook.

Philosophy

Undergraduate education and the years of late adolescence are important times for the social construction of self and development of interpersonal relationships. While striving for independence, students hope to prove to themselves and to others their capacity for directing their own lives. The college experience provides students with a unique freedom to explore this independence. Such freedom, however, may create difficulties.

In order to sustain a living and learning environment that both challenges and supports the personal, social and academic development of our residents and their communities, students must hold each other accountable for the responsibilities and privileges afforded to them. Every member must assume responsibility for personal and group integrity and civility in order for the community to best meet its developmental needs. Each person must examine, evaluate and regulate his/her own behavior to be consistent with the expectations of the Willamette community. In cases where such behavior is not consistent with these expectations, the Willamette Campus Conduct Office may need to intervene.

The overarching goal of the process is to emphasize education by focusing on the growth and development of the individual student, encouraging self-discipline and fostering a respect for the rights of others. Often mediation and resolution at the ground level (i.e., in relationships built in residential communities) are the most effective means to achieve this objective. When this level of communication is ineffective or when situations need additional community deliberation, issues on Willamette's campus may be referred to the Office of Rights and Responsibilities. An individual or group of individuals may meet with administrators,   support staff, or a student-run hearing board to determine a suitable response to a given issue. Regardless of the particular process, we strive to provide students with the opportunity to play an active role in creating restorative justice and making educated choices.

We seek to achieve the same goal: redirect the behavior of the students into constructive patterns and to protect the rights of the community.* The question becomes one of choosing the most effective means of maintaining conduct constructive for a university community. The unique advantage of using a J-Board lies in the opportunity to influence the attitudes and subsequent behavior of other students. Without question, peer influence, exercised through the disciplinary process, can often be more effective in redirecting the behavior patterns of students than any other method of discipline within the institution. Because of the advantage afforded by the J-Board, we should strive to encourage most students to work with this judicial body when possible.

As a final word, there is no substitute for fairness, objectivity and good judgment. The success of any judicial review or sanctioning committee is contingent upon the conviction of its members to maintain a nurturing environment while affording individual students maximum personal freedom within certain necessary constraints.

Note:

  • The philosophy of conduct in the campus community is rooted in an educational framework. The focus is to foster the growth and development of individual students through the encouragement of self-discipline, accountability and responsibility to the University community. A respect for the rights and privileges of others at the core of this philosophy.
  • The goals of the discipline process are to redirect the behavior of students into acceptable patterns, to protect the rights and privileges of all students and to promote conversation, mediation, and educational sanctioning above all.
  • J-Board and related committees should strive to help students achieve balance between the discovery and assertion of independence and the ability to control their lives within a realm of responsibilities and expected behavioral patterns that support and sustain residential communities.
  • It should be understood that there exists a fundamental difference between the nature of student sanctioning and that of criminal law. Student discipline is meant to be in accordance with the mission of the University. Judicial bodies are not designed to function as courts of law. The procedures are designed to treat all matters individually and to ensure fairness.

* Note that "constructive patterns [of behavior]" does not mean good (versus bad) or right (versus wrong) behavior, but rather behavior that will support and sustain positive community life according to the policy outlined in the Standards of Conduct.

Principles of Developmental Student Conduct

The goals of the process:

  • To prevent a student's inappropriate behavior from recurring in the future.
  • To address the cause of the inappropriate behavior in order to help the student develop and become a positive contributor to the community.

To achieve these goals, the people participating in the process must keep several principles in mind, specifically those below.

Developmental Attitude and Manner

In order for students to believe in our purpose and the genuineness of our desire to help them develop, board and committee members should be sincere. From the initial confrontation by staff through the hearing and follow-up of sanctioning, the student must feel honesty, candidness, concern and respect from members of the board or committee. The use of manipulation, threats or intimidation is not part of the developmental process.

The terms we use also affect the way we are perceived by others. Below are two lists of similar words we use to describe elements of the conduct process. The terms listed on the right give the student the impression that the process is punitive. Such language does not support an atmosphere where open communication and resolution is possible.

Developmentally Based Punitively Based
Conduct Discipline
Referred Written up
Confronted Busted
Conduct Hearing Trial
Student Referred, Accused Offender
Violation Offense
Inappropriate Behavior Bad Person
Responsible, not responsible Guilty, innocent

Win-Win vs. Win-Lose

In conjunction with a developmental approach to conduct, is an attitude of win-win. Win-win means that University staff feels reasonably sure that the inappropriate behavior will not continue and the student involved feels s/he received a fair response for the violation that occurred. When a win-win conduct process is implemented, both the community and the student are able to move forward with a positive, supportive relationship.

Respect for the Rights of the Individual

Respecting the individual’s rights includes hearing the case before deciding on responsibility and only imposing sanctions on individuals that are appropriate to the violation.  Even when the rights of the community are in jeopardy, the rights of the individual must be preserved.

Due Process

Student conduct processes must follow appropriate due process including some kind of notice of charges and the opportunity to be heard.  When the potential sanctions are more serious (such as suspension or expulsion), the more process is due (such as the opportunity to hear and respond to all information presented).

Prompt and Fair

Student conduct procedures must be done in a timely and organized way. Hearings are most effective when held as soon as possible after the alleged violation, preferably within three weeks time. Fairness involves giving individuals on both sides of a conflict equal time to voice their concerns and to discuss the alleged violations. Board and committee members should not assume that the student was responsible for the violation before hearing all of the information.

Consistency may not always mean equal sanctions for equal violations. Individual life circumstances, attitudes and stressors can be taken into account in a sanctioning process with sanctions imposed based upon the developmental issue the student needs to address as well as the impact on the community.

The "Teachable Moment"

Developmental conduct looks for the "teachable moment" - the point at which the student displays an interest in or ability to understand key developmental goals. All conduct processes, from confrontations to hearings, must have as their goal the creations of the "teachable moment."

Student Orientation

A developmental conduct process reflects what is best for the student and the community. Questions like: "How can the student best benefit from this process?" "What does the student need to learn from this process?" and "What is an appropriate response to help the student advance developmentally?" are good questions to focus on during the hearing.

Appropriate Sanctions

As the student conduct process is considered an educational tool, the sanctions imposed tend to focus on what the student needs to learn from the situation.  They may also focus on repairing harm to the community, to victims, and to the institution as a whole.  The most effective sanctions are often those that address the cause of the inappropriate behavior and are directly related to student development.  Sanctions imposed will be situational and depend on the student's attitude, commitment to changing behavior, level of self-responsibility and personal circumstances.  The process focuses on helping the student understand his/her behaviors violated community standards and helping the person can avoid making the same mistake again.  It is also focused on helping the student see how the instances of misconduct affect others.  However, some violations may warrant separation from the institution.  In situations involving weapons or violence, a primary concern is maintaining a safe environment.  Therefore, an educational response may not always be appropriate.