CSU produces revisions to student conduct code

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The California State University Board of Trustees will discuss possible revisions to the Student Conduct Code at its September meeting in Long Beach.

The Student Conduct Code sets the standard of expected behavior for students in the CSU system through a detailed list of unacceptable behaviors that could subject a student to disciplinary action at his or her individual campus.

The Board of Trustees is responsible for the oversight of the CSU, and the group adopts rules, regulations and policies that govern the system.

One of the main reasons a revision of the conduct code was considered was to establish a clear understanding of a university’s jurisdiction in relation to the off-campus behavior of its students, something that is unclear in the current version. A revision was distributed at the July Board of Trustees meeting.

As stated in the proposed new code: “The campus has discretion to exercise jurisdiction over student behavior that occurs off-campus against individuals or property not related to the campus community when the alleged misconduct threatens the safety or security or operation of campus programs or facilities.”

This behavior includes, but is not limited to, “any act chargeable as a violation of any federal, state, or local law when such acts pose a substantial threat to the safety or well-being of members of the University community, to property within the University community or pose continuing threat of disruption or interference to normal University functions.”

In short, if a CSUN student is found to be in violation of state or federal law, it will be left to the discretion of the university to decide if it will impose its own disciplinary action separate from any criminal charges that may be brought against that student.

The current version of the code neither specifically provides for this broad off-campus jurisdiction nor does it specify that all violations of the law can subject a CSUN student to disciplinary action by campus authorities.

William Watkins, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, has been handling student discipline at CSUN since 1993, and he plays a main role in dealing with violations of the new Student Conduct Code.

Though the other proposed revisions to the Student Conduct Code are limited, Watkins described one new addition to the list of behaviors subject to disciplinary action as “striking.” Behavior considered a violation of the conduct code includes “participating in an on- or off-campus riot, or activity that substantially and materially disrupts normal operations of the University, or infringes on the rights of other members of the University community.” If adopted as part of the revised code, the new provision could serve to hinder the ability of CSUN students to gather, speak or protest on- and off-campus.

Ideally, this new conduct code provision will not silence students, but rather ensure that their activism occurs in a way that is harmonious with the educational process, Watkins said.

Movimiento Estudiante Chicano/a de Aztlan members Lucrecia Nava and Fatima Aguayo said they are not so sure that will be the case, and described the proposed additions to the code as too broad.

“They’re targeting conscientious people who are willing to fight for what they believe in,” Nava said.

“We’re going to be limited in what we can say and where we can say it,” Aguayo added.

According to Watkins, there are three levels of disciplinary action that can be taken when it has been determined that a student is in violation of the conduct code.

The first possibility is disciplinary probation, where the student in question is allowed to enroll in and attend classes under certain conditions for a specific period of time.

The second disciplinary action is suspension, where the student is not allowed to enroll in classes and, if necessary, is prohibited from being on campus for a specific period of time.

The third and most serious is expulsion from the university, which at the same time disqualifies a student from attending any CSU campus.

Watkins said probation is the most common course of action in dealing with code violations, and most of the punishable infractions occur on campus.

Academic dishonesty in the form of electronic plagiarism is becoming more and more common.

With increased access to online resources for research, the temptation for students to simply cut and paste from the documents they find online has increased.

“The manual way to look for something that might be suspicious is to use google.com to search for those phrases,” said Gloria Melara, Academic Technology Committee member.

The Student Conduct Code in its current form can be found both in the schedule of classes and in the university course catalog.

Michael Salseda can be reached at michael.salseda@gmail.com.