Jake Johnson, vice chancellor for student affairs, shared revisions made to the Student Code of Conduct at a public town hall-style meeting over Zoom Wednesday.
Led by President Roni Miller, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska hosted the meeting, which took place at 6:30 p.m. Johnson presented a slideshow of changes made to the document since he discussed the code with the 2019-20 ASUN senate. Some of the changes included suggestions made by that previous senate, especially regarding alcohol and substance violations.
The 2019-20 senate body originally came up with a list of 13 changes they wanted to see made to the code, and, according to Miller, the working group made three of the suggested changes.
One change that Johnson said he knew students felt strongly about was the control the university has over off-campus activities, specifically illicit substance use. However, he said the working group was not comfortable removing the policies allowing for off-campus regulation.
According to Johnson, if that language were to be changed to only allow university regulation within the campus’s geographical footprint, the university would be overlooking some students. It would not be able to hold students accountable for what happens in fraternity or sorority houses that the university doesn’t own, he said, citing sexual misconduct as an example.
“We apply off-campus jurisdiction to sexual misconduct that occurs off-campus,” he said. “And, for consistency’s sake, it would be good for the regular code of conduct to still enable some off-campus jurisdiction.”
The working team did change the language regarding students in the presence of alcohol. In the original draft, the policy stated that it was against the code for a student to knowingly be in the presence of alcohol while on campus or representing the university.
The group changed the policy to “when unauthorized alcohol is present,” as Johnson explained there may be times when alcohol has been authorized while on campus or representing the university.
Graduate Student Assembly President Eric Rodene asked Johnson about whether students could get in trouble for violating the code of conduct if they were at a party and there was an illegal substance there but they did not use it. Johnson replied that while it is technically possible for a conduct officer to prosecute for that under the code, it was unlikely because the conduct officers have other behavior that they are more concerned with.
“Could it technically happen? Yes,” Johnson said. “Do we have the time to invest in that effort? Probably not.”
Johnson also said he views the university’s handling of substance related circumstances as more of an issue of training university staff correctly rather than adding more policy. He said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department and the University Housing staff should be aware of what constitutes a violation.
Another change to the document is in regard to how students can handle an administrative disposition if they receive one. In the first draft, students had three days to either accept or deny the sanctions suggested by the conduct officer. If a student denied, their case went to the University Conduct Board.
In the newer version, students will have five days to accept or decline, and they may ask for an extended deadline.
Johnson said that while he had received feedback encouraging the university to not accept evidence that would not be accepted by a court of the law, he and his team did not feel comfortable equating a conduct hearing to the criminal justice system.
Johnson also said that while there is a university website that lists policies, procedures and information links consolidated into one place, he and his office will be working on pulling all the policies that address student conduct and posting them on a supplemental site.
ASUN will discuss these changes at a working meeting on Friday over Zoom, before voting to either pass the revised Student Code of Conduct or pass a list of suggestions on Wednesday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m. also over Zoom.