Letting You Know
In the past, whenever students have gotten themselves into serious discipline trouble and faced sanctions such as being moved from one residence hall to another, removed from housing or suspended from the institution parents have often told us that they wish they had known sooner that their son or daughter was having these types of problems. We often wished their parents knew as well.
Those of us who work in Student Affairs firmly believe that parents can have a tremendous impact on their student's success in college. This is why we are pleased to inform you that thanks to a change in federal legislation and an internal review of how the College had chosen to handle its notification policies, parental notification regarding judicial matters is now possible.
The following excerpt is from a letter the President, Vice President and Deans sent to the College community in the spring of 1999:
"In an effort to improve student success and persistence as Keene State College, we will revise our FERPA statement and implement a new policy of parental notification and release of information to the public regarding crimes of violence and sex offenses.
"Effective with the fall 1999 semester, the College will notify the parent/legal guardian of any student who is claimed as a dependent and is involved in a disciplinary action which results in a sanction of Disciplinary Probation or any more serious sanction. This notification will indicate the student has received a given sanction as a result of a specific violation, and encourage the parent/legal guardian to speak with their student regarding the matter.
"The College will also begin releasing the final outcome of crimes of violence and non-forcible sex offenses to the public. The information released will include the name of the students found responsible, the violations for which he/she was found responsible, and the sanctions that were issued as a result.
"The College is committed to maintaining a safe and secure community and to helping our students be successful. Alcohol and drug use has a tremendous impact on a student's ability to succeed at Keene State. Information from a variety of campus offices indicates that students experience difficulties as a result of their own behaviors and of actions by other members within the campus community. These difficulties stem not only from alcohol and drug use, but also from other behaviors that disrupt the community and the intellectual and social pursuits of its members.
"Acts of violence, including sexual assault, hurt not only the victims, but also the community as a whole. These events can shatter the lives of everyone involved. Behaviors such as these have no place at an institution of higher learning. The College is determined in its efforts to address these issues, and will take whatever reasonable steps are necessary to try and prevent them.
"We understand that some may view this policy change as dramatic. The well being of students and their ability to succeed is of the utmost importance to all the members of the faculty and staff of the College. Our hope is that these policy changes will assist students in achieving their goals. By working together with parents and families, we can form a stronger network of support which aids students in their educational pursuits."
HOW DOES THE PARENTAL NOTIFICATION SYSTEM WORK?
Whenever a student violates a College policy that results in a sanction of Disciplinary Probation or higher (Threat of Loss of College Housing, Loss of College Housing, Threat of Disciplinary Probation, Disciplinary Suspension, Disciplinary Dismissal) a letter will be sent home to the student's parents/legal guardians indicating that their son or daughter is no longer in good standing with the College. The letter will encourage the parent/legal guardian to speak with the son or daughter about the situation. If the parent/guardian has any questions after this conversation, a contact person is identified in the letter who may be called to review the details of the student's violation and his or her current judicial history. We cannot emphasize enough that these calls should be made only after the conversation with the student has taken place. Not only will it help your student take responsibility for his or her actions, it will also demonstrate your high level of trust and undoubtedly answer most (if not all) of the questions you may have- thus saving you time and a phone call. You'd be surprised at how objectively students can convey the details and seriousness of their situation when they know their parents can call the College to get the other side of the story.
WHY DISCIPLINARY PROBATION?
The staff here at Keene State College treats students as adults. We understand that being away at college offers the kind of freedom that most students don't find at home. As a result, it often requires a period of adjustment during which even older students are bound to make mistakes. We view these mistakes as part of the learning process. Rather than make a big deal out of student's minor lapse of judgment (those which cause us little concern), we have decided to reserve parental notification for those concerns which clearly indicate the student may be heading down a bad road. A sanction such as Disciplinary Probation can be looked upon as an "early earning system," providing us-and you-with enough advance notice to help the student reverse course. Disciplinary Probation, as stated in the Student Handbook, "is assigned for a specific period of time, generally not less than one semester. It may place restrictions on the degree of an individual student's or student organization's campus activities and privileges…Certain scholarships may be withheld or lost due to disciplinary probation. No student on disciplinary probation shall be eligible to receive a statement of good standing from the College. Violations during probation generally result in more serious disciplinary dismissal from the College."
(The KSC Student Handbook, including the Judicial Code, can be found on the web at Student Handbook.)
SO FAR, SO GOOD
Since implementing this policy, evidence indicates that this change is having a positive effect on our students. Most students who have gotten into more serious trouble have had balanced conversations with their parents, often before they've had their judicial hearings. With only a few exceptions, students have been very cooperative when being confronted for policy violations, and, in general, the numbers of incidents involving serious violations has been down when compared to previous years. Our live-in staff tell us that students are saying they don't want to do anything that might result in one of our "nasty-grams" getting sent home to their parents.
This has been a big change for the campus, one which has helped all of our students and been greatly appreciated by parents. If you have any questions after reading this, feel free to contact the Dispute Resolution Coordinator, Mark Schmidl-Gagne.