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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

University adopts policy changes governing student conduct

Media Contact: URI Communications, 401-874-2116

KINGSTON, RI -- October 17, 2005 -- URI President Robert L. Carothers approved five of six pieces of legislation that will change policies governing student conduct. The changes, which will be published in the University Manual and the Student Handbook, were originally submitted to the URI Faculty Senate in May by the Student Rights and Responsibilities Committee (SR&R) and referred back to the Senate for clarification on September 22. The Senate approved the measures to be sent to the president.

President Carothers signed the legislation on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The policies are in effect with the president’s signature, but will not be put into practice until January 2006.

In summary, the approved legislation changes will:
• broaden jurisdiction of the student discipline system over off-campus conduct, but this will apply only narrowly to incidents that threaten safety or repeated arrests.
• expand current searches to allow limited, visual administrative searches of student residence rooms without the consent of the student but with “concrete evidence” and the approval of the director of housing and residential life. None of the evidence found in an administrative search can be used for criminal prosecution.
• grant a complainant the right to submit an appeal request to the University Appeals board within a one-week period based on new evidence.
• allow the vice president for student affairs to approve emergency suspensions.
• change all references from “judicial” to conduct” in student conduct legislation.

“The higher education landscape has changed, and there’s a rational and reasonable case to be made for these new policies. The changes give the University an opportunity to address foreseeable harm and to implement education interventions. It is reasonable to see how these policies will play out in real life. If we need to make any revisions, we will,” said President Carothers.

“With regard to searches in the residence halls, this legislation shifts the responsibility from the police to the student life personnel. It’s a step that means there is less jeopardy to students in a search, as it refers them into the student conduct system, rather than the criminal justice system,” added President Carothers.

The president did not approve any changes that had been requested in language related to the standard of proof in student disciplinary hearings. “We are maintaining the current, highest standard of proof, ‘clear and convincing,’ rather than shifting to ‘more likely than not’ in disciplinary hearings.”

The recommendations were created over the course of two years by the 12-member SR&R committee of faculty, staff and students, chaired by Fran Cohen, dean of students and assistant vice president for student affairs.

The recommendations reflect a growing trend in changes being made to higher education student conduct measures. URI’s new policies are less broad than those of 17 peer institutions surveyed by the committee. Those institutions include all the public universities in New England, (the University of Connecticut, the University of Maine, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Massachusetts, Boston) as well as the universities of Delaware and Virginia.

Below are links to related information and news articles on the issue:

Findings about jurisdiction for off-campus behavior at peer institutions(pdf file)

When students get rowdy, should colleges step in?
Christian Science Monitor – Oct. 14