Last week, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson raised the standard of evidence for on-campus incidents to “clear and convincing,” maintaining the status quo of “more likely than not” for alleged violations of the student code of conduct committed off campus. While this change will certainly improve the Code of Student Conduct, the system remains far from fair. At the very least, the code of conduct should apply equally to all students, and ideally, students living off-campus would be subject only to D.C. laws.
In a meeting with the Voice, Associate Vice President Jeanne Lord referred to the student code of conduct as an “educational tool” meant to instill a sense of the responsibilities and duties inherent in living in a campus community. However, off-campus students are more members of the community than on-campus residents. They should respect their neighbors and abide by District ordinances, and the University should trust the District law to appropriately regulate behavior.
The most high-profile Code of Student Conduct violations that occur off-campus have to do with noise or disorderly conduct. The District also regulates both of these offenses. In fact, all D.C. residents are subject to an already onerous noise ordinance, which makes any “unreasonably loud noises between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that are likely to disturb one or more persons in their residencies” an arrestable offense.
As Olson pointed out, the standard of evidence is lower for the Code of Student Conduct than for the law, as the punishments are also much less grave. However, it also stands to reason that students found in violation of the Code of Conduct would not be convicted under the D.C. statute for, say, disorderly conduct. In this sense, the University is over reaching, treating its students like its charges, rather than as members of a community founded on mutual respect.
A university should not dictate the conduct of its students living off campus. Georgetown, however, has a stake in students’ behavior when they live in the backyards of the neighbors sitting across the table in particularly heated Campus Plan discussions.
Olson alluded to the unique circumstances of off-campus students, explaining, “We have not made a change for incidents off campus. We take the interests of everyone involved in our community seriously…and we take interest in the perspective of our local neighbors and community neighbors seriously.”
In the wake of these drawn-out, contentious discussions, it is hard to see the University’s intrusion into the behavior of off-campus students as anything but pandering to neighborhood interests.
Students living as part of the neighborhood should be attentive to their responsibilities as D.C. citizens and local community members. But the University should not impose its own behavioral standards on the legal adults who are enrolled here.