Student Conduct Q&A

A recent student conduct case has generated questions and comments about the purpose and practice of the student conduct system, how sanctions are applied, and how various populations are affected by sanctions. The information below contains general information about the process and its application, both currently and over time, as well as current university initiatives to further our commitment to diversity and equity.

Conduct Process

  1. Why can't the university comment on specific conduct cases?
  2. What is the Integrity Principle?
  3. What are the Standards of Integrity?
  4. How are reports of alleged violations handled?
  5. What is the difference between minor and major violations?
  6. What range of sanctions might be issued in a student conduct case?
  7. What types of sanctions are covered under "other" in the table above?
  8. How are sanctions determined?
  9. Can respondents appeal a decision?
  10. On what basis can an appeal be filed?
  11. What happens if a student is found responsible but does not accept responsibility?

Harassment and Discriminatory Harassment

  1. What is the difference between harassment and discriminatory harassment?
  2. Are all incidents listed on the Harassment Reporting Officers (HRO) Annual Report adjudicated through the student conduct process?
  3. What is the role of the Bias-Hate Education Response Team (BHERT)?
  4. What is the Harassment Reporting Officers (HRO) Annual Report—and why are there so many incidents reported at Puget Sound?

Diversity and Equity

  1. Are students of color more likely than white students to be involved in the student conduct process?
  2. What percentage of students on campus identify as minorities?
  3. What is being done to increase and support minority students on campus?

Conduct Process

1. Why can’t the university comment on specific conduct cases?
In adherence to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other university policies related to privacy and conduct, the university is unable to provide information about student conduct, or to respond to or correct information shared by others about student conduct cases, without the express written permission of the students who are the subject of the conduct case. 

2. What is the Integrity Principle?
The university’s Student Integrity Code includes an Integrity Principle to which all incoming students subscribe by making this public promise: 

I am a member of the community of the University of Puget Sound, which is dedicated to developing its members’ academic abilities and personal integrity. I accept the responsibilities of my membership in this community and acknowledge that the purpose of this community demands that I conduct myself in accordance with Puget Sound’s policies of Academic and Student Integrity. As a student at the University of Puget Sound, I hereby pledge to conduct myself responsibly and honorably in my academic activities; to be fair, civil, and honest with all members of the Puget Sound community; and to respect their safety, rights, privileges, and property.

3. What are the Standards of Integrity?
Puget Sound has a Student Integrity Code that applies to all students enrolled at the university. It is expected that all students will comport themselves in alignment with the Student Integrity Code and subscribe to the Integrity Principle, which is implemented through the six standards of integrity below. The student conduct process can be initiated in response to an alleged violation of the following standards.

  1. A member of the Puget Sound community must not harm someone physically or psychologically, or cause them to fear being harmed.
  2. A member of the Puget Sound community must not engage in activities that threaten the safety and security of the university or its members.
  3. A member of the Puget Sound community must not possess, use, distribute, or sell illicit substances, or engage in activities with the intention of distributing any controlled substance or illegal drug on university premises or at university-sponsored activities.
  4. A member of the Puget Sound community shall abide by the university’s alcohol and drug policies and procedures, and shall not consume alcohol, serve alcohol to minors, or host parties at which alcohol is served or consumed in violation of university policies or state, federal, or local regulations.
  5. A member of the Puget Sound community shall refrain from any interference with the procedures related to the enforcement of the Student Integrity Code or any disciplinary decision, and will agree to fulfill any sanction properly imposed under the provisions of the Student Integrity Code.
  6. A member of the Puget Sound community shall not violate published university regulations and policies, including, but not limited to, the university residence policy, the alcohol and drug policy, academic regulations, or other university policies required for the safety and orderly operation of the university.

4. How are reports of alleged violations handled?
Any member of the university community may file a complaint alleging a violation of the code with a member of the Dean of Students staff or Security Services. An initial investigation determines whether an alleged violation is minor or major.

If further investigation warrants charge of a minor violation, the student charged may choose an administrative hearing (typically a Resident Director), peer board (five students), or an informal resolution (including mediation).

If further investigation warrants charge of a major violation, the student so charged may choose an Integrity Code Board (student, faculty member, staff member), administrative hearing (Dean of Students staff member), or Honor Court (seven students, faculty member, and staff member). If approved by the Dean of Students, the following options may be available: informal resolution, voluntary withdrawal, or conditional suspension. Appeal of findings and/or sanction, on grounds outlined in the Code, is to the Dean of Students. See Implementation of Student Integrity Code and Hearing Boards for more information.

5. What is the difference between minor and major violations?
Minor violations include those that pose no significant threat to property or individuals, but that indicate a lack of regard for the rights, property, or personal privileges of individuals or groups within the university and neighboring community.

Major violations include any acts that pose a significant threat to personal or university-owned property or to the physical safety or psychological security of individuals and/or groups within the university and neighboring community. Examples of major violations include causing physical harm or reasonable apprehension of harm to another individual or group, theft of individual or university-owned property, or substantial interference with the university’s responsibilities of protecting the health and safety of individuals and groups or ensuring the opportunity of all members to attain their educational goals.

Educational and preventive measures are contributing to a decrease in major violations of the Student Integrity Code over time:

Percentage of hearings categorized as major violations
2015–16: 4.1%
2014–15: 3.8%
2013–14: 8.6%
2012–13: 10.8%
2011–12: 10.2%
2010–11: 11.4%

6. What range of sanctions might be issued in a student conduct case?
Violations of the Student Integrity Code, which might result in sanctions up to and including separation from the university, include alcohol violations, drug violations, harassment (which may or may not include discriminatory harassment, as not all harassment is discriminatory), and other actions that are outlined in the six standards of the code. Possible sanctions include, but are not limited to, educational activities or assignments, drug and alcohol assessments, conduct reprimand, probation, suspension, and expulsion.

Over the past seven years, conduct suspensions have ranged from two to five students per academic year. Of the five suspensions for the most recent academic year (2015–16), all suspended were male; four identified as white and one as Asian. Those suspended were found responsible for violation of multiple standards, including assault, property damage, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and/or possession/use of alcohol.

Conduct sanctions for academic years 2011–12 through 2015–16

   2015–16 2014–15 2013–14  2012–13  2011–12 
 Not responsible 56 55  131  111  149 
Conduct reprimand  345  260  351  300  390 
Conduct probation I  31  50  89  82  130 
Conduct probation II  18 
Conduct suspension 
Expulsion 
Other  261  83  89  131  184 

7. What types of sanctions are covered under “other” in the table above?
Nearly every decision related to a Student Conduct Code violation includes educational or restorative justice components designed to address the specific needs of the individuals involved. For example, this might include some combination of issuing an apology and making a roommate agreement; meeting regularly with an appointed advisor; formally engaging in an educational program related to the offense (such as drug or alcohol education); completing counseling; or other actions that further a student’s ability to return to the community in good standing.

“Other” is a sanction or set of sanctions most often implemented in addition to conduct reprimand, probation, or suspension. In order for appropriate educational sanctions to be identified, students found responsible for violations must be willing to accept responsibility and engage in conversations about their behaviors.

8. How are sanctions determined?
A finding of responsibility is based on whether a preponderance of evidence exists that a student has violated the Student Integrity Code. If a student is found responsible for alleged violation(s), then decisions on appropriate sanctions are made. Members of the university community responsible for decision-making related to code violations focus on making the conduct process one in which a student is encouraged to examine the motives for, and consequences of, the actions that have brought the student’s standing in the community into question.

Sanctions are intended to provide the student with the opportunity to grow in self-knowledge and ethical habits of thought and action, and when appropriate, the opportunity to heal the breach in the community caused by the student’s behavior and to recompense the community. In order for appropriate educational sanctions to be identified, students found responsible for violations must be willing to accept responsibility and engage in conversations about their behaviors.

9. Can respondents appeal a decision?
Both complainants and respondents have the option of appealing a decision. Appeals are made to the Dean of Students, who does not participate in the investigation, hearings, or issuing of sanctions in a case. The dean may affirm or reduce sanctions; the dean cannot increase sanctions as the result of an appeal.

10. On what basis can an appeal be filed?

  1. Procedural error that unfairly and/or materially affected the outcome of the case;
  2. action has been taken that is arbitrary, unreasonable, or unsupported by substantial evidence; 
  3. newly discovered evidence emerges that was not obtainable at the time of the original hearing; and/or
  4. severity of the sanction is disproportionate to the sanctions given for comparable offenses.

In evaluating sanctions, those that are educational and restorative justice-related, as opposed or in addition to punitive sanctions, can be applied if a respondent is willing to accept responsibility for, and engage in conversation about, the behavior that led to the original sanction.

11. What happens if a student is found responsible but does not accept responsibility?
If found responsible for a violation, the degree to which individuals take responsibility for a violation and demonstrate willingness to engage in education or restorative justice is also considered. If those found responsible for violations of the Student Integrity Code choose to not engage in conversations about responsibility, the hearing board and/or appeal officer are limited in terms of defining educational or restorative-justice options that address the causes of behavior for which a student is being sanctioned. In these cases, sanctions necessarily may be limited to those that are punitive rather than educational. An educational response is always preferred but requires the engagement and cooperation of all parties involved.

Harassment and Discriminatory Harassment

1. What is the difference between harassment and discriminatory harassment?
Discriminatory harassment consists of conduct of any type (e.g., oral, written, graphic, or physical) directed against a person (or group of persons) because of his or her (or their) race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, disability, marital or familial status, sexual orientation, veteran or military status, gender identity, or any legally protected characteristic, which is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive as to limit or deny a student’s ability to participate in, or benefit from, an educational program or a faculty, staff, or student staff member’s ability to perform or participate in a work environment.

Harassment that is not discriminatory includes actions such as bullying or harassing an individual or members of a group on a basis other than those defined above.

2. Are all incidents listed on the Harassment Reporting Officers (HRO) Annual Report adjudicated through the student conduct process?
No. In some instances students were not involved or the complainants didn't wish to pursue a complaint, a perpetrator could not be identified, there was no complainant or respondent, or a resolution was agreed to by the parties involved outside of the conduct process.

The HRO report deals only with reports of discriminatory harassment. It does not include all violations or alleged violations of the Student Integrity Code, or any resulting sanctions.

3. What is the role of the Bias-Hate Education Response Team (BHERT)?
BHERT is committed to fostering an equitable, inclusive learning environment for all members of the university community. BHERT reviews aggregate data in order to address, through educational means, incidents of bias and hate on campus. BHERT is composed of 10 staff members from across the campus, as well as three faculty members. The group does not adjudicate conduct issues, but collaborates with others on campus to:

  • provide a means whereby faculty, staff, and students on campus can report incidents of bias and hate;
  • monitor incidents and share aggregate data with the campus community to raise awareness about patterns and trends of bias and hate;
  • provide support and resources for individual(s) and/or groups impacted by creating educational opportunities for dialogue, reflection, understanding, and action; and
  • assure institutional accountability and responsiveness in addressing bias and hate.

4. What is the Harassment Reporting Officers (HRO) Annual Report—and why are there so many incidents reported at Puget Sound?
We encourage reporting. We believe that making it safe to report and raising awareness of the types of incidents reported will contribute to creating a safer and more aware campus community. In order to cultivate a campus environment in which concerns are brought forward for resolution, the HRO report includes all issues raised, whether or not they resulted in official actions through the student conduct process or other channels.

In 2015–16, members of the university community responded to 105 reports of discriminatory harassment or sexual misconduct. The HRO report includes all inquiries about or reports of potentially discriminatory harassment, bias, or sexual misconduct made to Harassment Response Officers, the Chief Diversity/Title IX Officer, and the Bias-Hate Education Response Team (BHERT). It does not include all violations or alleged violations of the Student Integrity Code. Violations of the Student Integrity Code, which also might result in sanctions up to and including permanent separation from the university, include alcohol violations, drug violations, and other actions outlined in the six standards of the code.

Diversity and Equity

1. Are students of color more likely than white students to be involved in the student conduct process?
White students comprise the largest percentage of students involved in the student conduct process. The most likely student to be involved in the student conduct process is a white, male, first-year student. 

White students as a percentage of all students involved in student conduct
2015–16: 76.9%
2014–15: 76.2%
2013–14: 77.1%

2. What percentage of students on campus identify as minorities?
Fall 2016: 24.6% (all undergraduate students); 28.0% (freshman class)
Fall 2015: 25.8% (all undergraduate students); 20.4% (freshman class)
Fall 2014: 25.4% (all undergraduate students); 24.1% (freshman class)
Fall 2013: 25.0% (all undergraduate students); 25.1% (freshman class)

3. What is being done to increase and support minority students on campus?
We view diversity as a matter of equity and inclusion, and aim to understand and actively respond to the ways organizational aspects of our society and of our own university often work against those principles. The work of diversity seeks to account for and redress deeply embedded historical practices and legacies, forms of cultural and social representation, and institutional policies and processes that can systematically exclude groups or individuals from full participation in higher education.

As committed to in the university diversity statement:

  • We acknowledge the richness of commonalities and differences we share as a university community, the intrinsic worth of all who work and study here, and that education is enhanced by investigation of and reflection upon multiple perspectives.
  • We aspire to create respect for and appreciation of all persons as a key characteristic of our campus community, to increase the diversity of all parts of our university community through commitment to diversity in our recruitment and retention efforts, and to foster a spirit of openness to active engagement among all members of our campus community.
  • We act to achieve an environment that welcomes and supports diversity, to ensure full educational opportunity for all who teach and learn here, and to prepare effectively citizen-leaders for a pluralistic world.
    Examples of diversity and inclusion work to attract and support students include the following. Please see Fall 2016 summary report for a more comprehensive overview of current efforts.

Academics

  • KNOW. Introduced a Knowledge, Identity, and Power graduation requirement, including more than 20 courses, to help students understand the dynamics and consequences of power differentials and inequalities among various groups. 
  • Access Programs. Puget Sound's Access Programs help prepare first-generation and underrepresented middle and high school students for college.
  • Race and Pedagogy Institute. A national conference and other activities to address inequities in education, and parent and teacher summits to engage our students and encourage closer ties with Tacoma families and Tacoma schools. 
  • Faculty hiring. Half of 2015–16 and 2016–17 tenure-line faculty hires are persons of color.

Enrollment

  • Tacoma Public Schools Commitment. The city of Tacoma is more diverse than the student body at Puget Sound. The Tacoma Public Schools Commitment meets the full demonstrated financial need of eligible graduates who enroll at Puget Sound, and helps improve the diversity of the student body across all measures. Enrollment from TPS has more than doubled since launching the program.
  • Access Scholars Cohort Program. The cohort program aims to increase recruitment of underrepresented and underserved groups, improve structural diversity, and promote student retention and success.
  • Test-optional. A test-optional admission policy was implemented to remove barriers for access to college.
  • The Posse Foundation. A partnership with the The Posse Foundation helps expand the pool from which Puget Sound can recruit young leaders from diverse backgrounds.

Campus Climate

  • Diversity Strategic Plan. A new diversity strategic plan has been adopted, building on the work of the plan launched in 2006.
  • The Center for Intercultural and Civic Engagement. Works to promote an inclusive learning environment for all students, specifically those from underrepresented populations according to race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
  • The Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Includes the university Title IX coordinator, oversees the Diversity Advisory Council and campus climate surveys, implements the diversity strategic plan, and more.
  • Cultural literacy and competency training for faculty and staff members. In addition to required training and tutorials, regular activities include an annual Professional Development and Enrichment Conference, and ongoing teaching and pedagogy development workshops for faculty.
  • Student organizations. A newly renovated and expanded Student Diversity Center opened in fall 2016 and is home to numerous campus clubs. Campus clubs operating under the auspices of the Associated Students of University of Puget Sound (ASUPS) include Advocates for Detainee Voices, Asian and Pacific American Student Union, Black Student Union, Hillel, Ka Ohana me ke Aloha Hui-o-Hawaii, Latinos Unidos, Men of Color, Muslim Student Association, Queer Alliance, and more. 
  • Black Alumni Union. A dedicated group of alumni who are an important source of mentorship and support for current students.