By: Matt Lamsma
A few years ago I had a conversation with a parent who was concerned that the Resident Assistant staff was “targeting” his son and waiting outside his apartment for him so that they could catch him drinking. I assured the parent that I didn’t think that was the case and asked what his son had told him. As I listened to the father share his son’s story, I realized that one important part had been left out. The RA staff had come to his apartment because the students below complained about someone urinating off the 2nd floor balcony.
I realize that this is an extreme example, but it does illustrate a couple of things about the Gonzaga Community:
1) Residence Life Staff, Campus Security, and the Spokane Police do respond to incidents that we are made aware of. Whether those things come to our attention because a group of students scurry into a room loudly whispering “it’s the RA!”, or because we get a phone call from a frustrated roommate, or because SPD encounters a student walking down the street with an open can of beer, we have a responsibility to follow up.
2) It also shows that sometimes students don’t provide parents with the full story of what happened or what they were doing to make the RA, Campus Security, or SPD take notice. Sometimes students will indicate that they were “being really quiet” while drinking in a residence hall room. However, my experience is that even if you are trying to be quiet, having 10 people talking at normal volume in an 8’x12’ dorm room is very audible to everyone walking past that room.
One question parents often want to know is “What happens after my child gets ‘written up’?” While the full conduct and disciplinary system is outlined in detail in the Student Handbook (www.Gonzaga.edu/studenthandbook), the simple answer is that they will have a meeting with a conduct officer – either a Residence Life or Student Life Staff member. The more complex answer to the question is that it depends on what happened in the incident and what a particular student was responsible for doing (or not doing).
The role of a conduct officer in a meeting is to determine if “more likely than not” a University policy, rule, or expectation was violated and in return if any restitution or educational sanction is appropriate for the policy violation. The conduct meeting is not a court, and the students are not on trial in any way. Instead, all conduct officers take time to get to know the students they are meeting with and listen to a student’s account of the incident before making decisions. Keeping in mind the Gonzaga’s mission and commitment to educating the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – our goal is to always have the sanctions be educational for a student, not punitive. For example, in an incident where a student is found responsible for violating the University alcohol policy, we might require them to attend the BASICS Alcohol Education workshop. This workshop provides students with information about alcohol use that allows each individual to make safe choices about drinking that are in-line with the law, their values, and what they hope to accomplish while at Gonzaga.
Parents also often want to know if they have a role in the University conduct process. While in many ways we encourage parents to act as partners with the University, you may or may not be made aware by the University of an incident, the outcome of a conduct meeting, or any sanctions given to your student. Federal Law, institutional practice and the conversation with your student guide how and when such information can be released. For the most part we notify parents of alcohol violations for underage students, drug violations, or violations that result in a student being put on a probationary status. The intent here is to make parents aware of the incident, not to allow parents to advocate or negotiate on behalf of their student. We have found that parents who are willing to help their students learn from an incident or sanction are often wonderful educators alongside us in the Student Life Division.
Overall the student conduct process at Gonzaga is one that should be affirming and educational for students who are involved. We realize that some students will make choices that violate our policies, rules, and expectations. We also expect that students will take responsibility for their choices and learn through the conduct process. Our hope is that as parents you are informed of our process and can guide your student through this experience.