UW-System clarifies conduct rules

The UW-System has invited public comment on changes it recommended to rules regarding student conduct, including conduct on university property. The rules are contained in chapters 17 and 18 of the administrative code.

The chapters in question involve what the university can do with a student who is repeatedly in trouble off-campus.

David Giroux, spokesman for the System, said this administrative code has the force of law within the university systems. He said that while it lays out the process for disciplinary problems, it never included a “scope” for these rules cover, which is why they needed to make clarifications.

Just because a student does something off-campus, Giroux said, “doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant to fellow students in your campus community.” This is why the System wanted to clarify the rules’ scope, he said.

Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of Student Development, said that the recommended changes won’t do much to change what UW-Eau Claire currently does for discipline. Her office works closely with the Eau Claire police department, she said, and if students get in trouble for things that could affect other university students – such as being charged with a violent assault – she said the university will also get involved, for the protection of other students.

“The important thing we want students to know is that the code isn’t about punishing,” she said.

If there is a situation where a university student gets into repeated confrontations with city police, Thesing-Ritter said her office will sit down with the student and help them figure out their options. For example, if a house has repeated noise violations for parties and the tenants are on the verge of eviction, she said her office will help the students figure out their legal options and counsel them how to make better choices.

Obviously, she said this wouldn’t happen if a student got repeated speeding tickets, she said. Only incidents that affect the quality of university life will be addressed, she said. She added that most people who look at the recommended changes would agree that the issues spelled out – such as sexual violence, hazing, harassment and stalking – are issues they would like the university to keep an eye on.

David Sprick, chief of university police, said the changes won’t affect what the department currently does, since most situations would involve city police and Thesing-Ritter’s office.

These rules should just make students more aware of how their conduct might reflect on the university, Sprick said, adding that students should try to be “positive representatives” of the university as a whole.

“By and large, most students do,” he said.

Giroux and Thesing-Ritter agreed that they hope students will take a close look at the recommended changes and share their comments and concerns.

“I think most people will come to the conclusion that this is a fairly non-threatening set of recommendations,” Giroux said.