Thursday, November 10, 2011

PLU’s Student Conduct system could do more

By Heather Perry, Editor-In-Chief

Pacific Lutheran’s Student Conduct system is far from a legal system. That fact was clearly established in my article published in the Oct. 14 issue of The Mooring Mast.However, this doesn’t mean the Student Conduct system should go to the other extreme in disclosing information.

PLU currently discloses only a limited number of non-identifying statistics in the Annual Safety Report, in contrast to the United States legal system that involves information available to the public at any point in the process.

Instead of such a closed system, Student Conduct should be reasonably transparent. This means when the government-mandated monthly statistics are compiled, they should be disclosed to students. A simple mass email would suffice, similarly to what is done yearly.

It wouldn’t even require much additional work on the part of PLU employees since the report is already compiled.

I don’t ask for any information that could potentially identify a student, since that would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – one of the many regulations for educational records. I just want the statistical data released more frequently and for it to be more detailed.

The required disclosure of crime statistics required by the 1998 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act really isn’t enough.

Students should have access to more than what happened in the Student Conduct system in regards to liquor, drug, weapons and hate crime violations in the past three years. They should know the number of academic dishonesty cases; the number of cases involving prejudice or racism; how many students overall were found responsible, not responsible or results were inconclusive; etc.

These measures to protect privacy essentially allow students to make mistakes during college that will not follow them for the rest of their lives. I support this environment, and it is not threatened by more detailed and more frequently distributed statistical information.

As stated in my previous article, Associate Director for Student Conduct Ray Lader said no one has ever asked them to disclose more. I don’t find this a legitimate excuse and would really wish to disband the idea that organizations should only disclose what they’re required to by law, company policy, etc.

In the case of the Student Conduct system, more transparency would inspire faith and trust in what is already a mysterious system to students. It would also prevent the PLU community from assuming the worst in PLU or that it has something to hide.

The Mooring Mast itself has a commitment to transparency, evident in its endorsement of the TAO of Journalism pledge to be transparent, accountable and open. Specifically in regards to transparency, this means we will disclose who we are, our journalistic mission, guiding principles, all biases, affiliations and other conflicts of interest.

California Lutheran University, in its 2011 Campus Security and Fire Life Safety Report, included nine pages of quantitative data – although it admittedly did not identify data specific to its Student Conduct system. This compares to the one chart PLU included in its 2011 Annual Safety Report that included some data on the Student Conduct system. CLU is comparable in size to PLU; both universities accommodate about 3,600 students on average.

The University of Washington, which accommodates upwards of 40,000 students, released 11 pages of statistical information in its Guide to Campus Safety & Substance Abuse, and the Annual Fire Safety Report – also not identifying data specific to its Student Conduct system, but offering more detailed information.

PLU is therefore better than most at identifying information specific to the Student Conduct system, but they still could do a better job by offering more information more frequently.

Those opposed to providing this statistical information will point out this information could place PLU in a poor light, but I argue it allows the PLU community to hold the school and its students accountable for their actions.

I don’t see a negative there.

They will also argue students could potentially be identified and then embarrassed, but if statistical information is disclosed like I’m suggesting – that’s numbers, not identifying information.

Lader plans on revamping the current system in the coming academic years and one of the changes should concern the disclosure of information.

When it comes down to it, the Student Conduct system really should be more transparent than it currently is. Although regulations prevent disclosure of identifying information, this doesn’t give PLU the excuse to go to either extreme in regards to disclosure, despite the Student Conduct system not being a legal system.