ERIC Identifier: ED408919
Publication Date: 1997-00-00
Author: Dannells, Michael
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education Washington DC.| BBB32577 _ George Washington Univ. Washington
DC. Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
From Discipline to Development: Rethinking Student Conduct in
Higher Education. ERIC Digest.
Student discipline has been a point of concern and contention for most of the
history of higher education in the United States; today is no exception. Perhaps
no other single subject so dramatically reflects our attitudes about students
and how we define our duty and our relationship with them. From the earliest
dissatisfactions with pious and moralistic paternalism in the colonial colleges,
to recent controversies over hate speech versus First Amendment rights, student
behavior and institutional responses have vexed faculty and administrators with
a set of issues both fundamental and timely. Why do we concern ourselves with
student behavior at all? What should be the "reach" of the institutions of
higher education? What standards of behavior should colleges expect? How are
those standards best communicated? By what processes should misconduct be
adjudicated? If standards are broken, how should institutions respond? What is
our overreaching purpose in student discipline? How do we know when it is met?
Who should be responsible for it?
Student discipline comprises a set of complex and inter-related issues that
deserve careful examination and reasonable recommendations. This report provides
both, with an eye toward new trends in responding to and preventing student
misconduct, and to programs that avoid unduly legalistic processes, while
enhancing student development in the continuation of the institutional mission.
WHAT ROLE SHOULD COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES PLAY IN STUDENT DISCIPLINE?
Once student discipline was a central part of the college
mission; today, it has moved to the periphery of most campus agendas. Since the
demise of "in loco parentis," most campuses have been left without a guiding
reason for engaging in student discipline, and most faculty are, at best, only
marginally involved in day-to-day matters of student conduct. Even campus
administrators are ambivalent about their overall duty for student behavior.
Urgent present-day concerns about such behavioral problems as crime on
campus, hate speech, date/acquaintance rape, alcohol (and other substance)
abuse, and academic dishonesty, coupled with demands for greater supervision of
students, the increasing litigiousness of a civil-liberty minded populace, as
well as an increase in older, more consumer-oriented students, have left campus
leaders understandably wary, while searching for new ways to fashion policy in
this area. As a legacy of the student rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s,
and the accompanying judicial scrutiny of disciplinary decisions, today's codes
of conduct tend to be heavy on process and light on real guidance for the
student. It is time for colleges and universities to rethink their purposes for
engaging in student discipline and fashion rules and processes that follow
logically. Hoekema (1994) has proposed a useful and thoughtful analytic
framework and conceptual model for thinking about codes of conduct, based on
three overarching moral/ethical principles: preventing harm, upholding freedom,
and fostering community. Many campuses could benefit from a close consideration
of this approach.
WHERE SHOULD INSTITUTIONS BEGIN IN RECONSIDERING STUDENT DISCIPLINE, AND WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?
Colleges and universities are
urged to reconsider their approaches to student discipline by attempting to
integrate the academic and nonacademic worlds of students through a broad-based,
unified approach that demonstrates and reinforces the importance and integrity
of institutional values. They should begin this process by reviewing and
clarifying institutional values as they are already articulated in mission
statements, codes of conduct, and academic integrity policies. Given the current
high level of concern about student cheating, it may be the best and safest
place to begin; few would argue with the academia's hand in this domain.
Faculty, administrative and student affairs staff, and students should all be
involved in a collaborative effort. Honor codes are in resurgence and should be
carefully considered. There is a growing body of research that supports their
efficacy, and while they are certainly not a panacea, the very process of
considering an honor code should stimulate the kind of value-focused dialogue
necessary for the campus to become a more moral community. Another good place to
begin promoting such community building is in the curriculum. Astin (1995)
recently proposed a "citizenship curriculum," which could foster the basic
democratic values reinforcing and undergirding the campus disciplinary program.
Many colleges and universities are instituting interdisciplinary courses to meet
general education needs and to challenge the values of a materialistic,
philosophic student body. Shouldn't there be room for a course, perhaps even a
required course, that directly addresses student rights and responsibilities in
the campus community?
WHAT MORE DO WE NEED TO LEARN ABOUT STUDENT
Although institutions of higher education in the United States
have been engaged in the practice of student discipline for more than 300 years,
we know surprisingly little about the effectiveness of our efforts. Research in
student discipline should be conducted in three areas. First, institutional
research should be done on existing disciplinary programs to determine their
present effectiveness. Like any other student development program, these efforts
should be periodically and systematically evaluated to ensure they are meeting
their goals. The practice of disciplinary counseling should be of particular
interest. It is a commonly employed response to student misbehavior, yet it has
been questioned on the basis of ethics and efficacy. Second, student behavior,
and how it is affected by the predominant student culture, its various
subcultures, and how they compare to the faculty culture, should be studied.
Conventional survey techniques, as well as qualitative methods, especially
ethnographic, should be used to conduct "culture audits." Third, student
development theories need to be operationalized and tested in the disciplinary
context. If traditional quantitative methods do not seem to convey the richness
of data needed by disciplinary practitioners, then qualitative methods should be
encouraged. The case study method is a useful way of linking developmental
theory to disciplinary practice, yet it is rare in the student personnel
IN WHAT WAYS MUST CAMPUSES CHANGE TO FOSTER THE DEVELOPMENT OF DISCIPLINED STUDENTS?
Colleges and universities and their students
would benefit by thinking about student discipline in less adversarial and more
developmental ways. Many disputes that now fill campus judicial systems might be
better resolved through mediation. If disciplinary counseling is too problematic
in the way we currently think about our disciplinary/judicial systems, perhaps
we need to reframe our approach to include such methods as "caring
confrontation," wherein the student's behavior is critically examined in a
supportive relationship, and the central goal of the process is to see what can
be learned from the situation, but not so much the determination of guilt and
the application of punishment.
Student affairs leaders, and in particular the chief student affairs officer
(CSAO) on campus, must actively and positively embrace their responsibility to
encourage the building of moral/ethical communities on campus. The best student
discipline program is the preventative type that creates a campus environment of
caring and compassion, and one that deters hateful and destructive behavior by
virtue of commitment to the community. One of the most effective ways to achieve
the building of such a commitment is through service learning. College students,
especially young college students, who have had the opportunity to learn about
the needs of others through service to them, are far less likely to engage in
the kinds of selfish and immature behaviors that account for the bulk of the
disciplinary caseloads at most institutions. CSAOs, with their expertise in
experiential learning, and with the opportunity to promote such programs though
a myriad of student services, are in a unique position to contribute to the
curriculum and promote the development of the whole student.
The importance of building more caring and collaborative communities of
learning on our campuses has been a consistent theme in the literature on higher
education for almost a decade. Student discipline can play a vital part, but
first, institutions must clarify their values, and then campus leaders including
both academic affairs and student affairs must take responsibility for
developing disciplinary programs which are fair, humane, and uphold those values
for the betterment of the individual student and for the community as a whole.
Hoekema, David A. 1994. "Campus Rules and Moral
Community: In place of In Loco Parentis." Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Kaplin, William A., and Barbara A. Lee. 1995 "The Law of Higher Education."
3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pavela, Gary. 1996. "Judicial Affairs and the Future." "Critical Trends in
Practice," edited by Wanda L. Mercer. New Directions for Student Services No.
73. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gehring, Donald D. and Gary Pavela. 1994. "Issues and Perspectives on
Academic Integrity." 2nd ed. Washington, DC: National Association of Student
This ERIC digest is based on a full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC Higher
Education Report Volume 25-2, From Discipline to Development: Rethinking Student
Conduct in Higher Education by Michael Dannells.