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OHIO’s revised Student Code of Conduct to take effect Aug. 24

Ohio University will be kicking off the academic year with a slightly revised Student Code of Conduct with changes aimed at making the document clearer and the processes involving interim suspensions more efficient and equitable – all while ensuring the safety of the entire OHIO community.

The University’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved revisions to the Student Code of Conduct, a document that sets out the behavioral expectations for students admitted to Ohio University, at its June 23 meeting on OHIO’s Zanesville Campus. 

The new, revised Student Code of Conduct will take effect on Thursday, Aug. 24, the first day OHIO’s residence halls open for the academic year. 

Changes to interim suspensions

The most significant changes to the code were made to the section pertaining to interim suspensions, explained Martha Compton, director of OHIO’s Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility.

When the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility is considering issuing an interim suspension, staff from that office, as well as from the Dean of Student’s Office, Legal Affairs, the Ohio University Police Department (OUPD) and, if appropriate, Title IX, review the facts of the situation and make a recommendation. Under the new, revised code, that recommendation will be made to the Dean of Students who will decide whether an interim suspension should be issued.

Under the current code, that decision was made by the University’s president and the decision was final. Compton noted that particular setup sometimes presented logistical issues. 

In addition, under the current code, students placed on interim suspension remain on that suspension through the end of the conduct process. Under the revised code, students may request that their interim suspension be reviewed by the Vice President of Student Affairs. Under the revised code, the Vice President of Student Affairs will have options in reviewing the interim suspension and can decide:

  • That the student may return to campus fully while the conduct case proceeds through the normal channels
  • That the student should remain on interim suspension
  • That the student’s interim suspension be modified in some way

Compton explained that possible modifications to the interim suspension could be allowing the student to be on campus to take classes but not reside in the residence halls or, depending on the willingness of faculty to work with the student, to perform classwork remotely or to finish classes online.

“These are not options that are currently available to students,” Compton added, noting that there are typically about a half a dozen or fewer students per year who are issued interim suspensions. “In making these changes, we’re giving students another layer of review and an opportunity to be heard, which I think is really important in these situations.”

Compton noted that in developing this amended section of the code, staff from her office, the Dean of Student’s Office, Legal Affairs, OUPD and Title IX discussed the current policy at length before submitting their recommendation to OHIO’s Review and Standards Committee, a presidentially-appointed University standing committee charged with developing changes to the code. In addition, they did some benchmarking both for institutions in the Inter-University Council of Ohio as well as those in the MAC to see how they are handling interim suspensions.

Changes to the definition of a student

Another significant change to OHIO’s Student Code of Conduct seeks to clarify the definition of an Ohio University and when one is, for University judicial purposes, officially considered a student.

Compton explained that the new, revised code will encompass all Ohio University students, including students attending classes on OHIO’s extension campuses, through its online and distance education programs as well as through the College Credit Plus program. 

Changes to the code also clarify that a student is considered a student upon admission to the University. Under the current code, a student is considered a student upon a student’s acceptance of admission. Because students don’t really accept admission – outside of pay their housing deposit if they intend to reside on the Athens Campus – that portion of the code needed some clarification.

“All students are accepted into Ohio University at some point, so that seemed to be a universal way to define when a student becomes a student,” Compton added.

Changes to the scope of the code

In looking at the scope of OHIO’s Student Code of Conduct, a clause has been added that allows the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility to take action when a student has committed a serious violation of criminal or civil law – regardless of when that violation occurred. 

In explaining when this change might be applied, Compton gave as an example a student who is accepted into Ohio University and who later is indicted through a grand jury process for something serious and felony level that occurred prior to them even applying for admission.

“Under that scenario, technically they weren’t a student when the violation occurred,” Compton said, “but the University still has an interest in protecting the safety of our community, so we would still reserve the right to take action at that point.”

Changes to the composition of the University Appeal Board

All students have the right to appeal a decision made through OHIO’s Community Standards Process. In an effort to ensure that those appeals are heard in a timely manner, another revision to the Student Code of Conduct concerns the composition of the University Appeal Board (UAB).

Under the current code, the UAB is composed of one faculty member, one staff member and one student. Compton noted that at times, particularly during the summer, it can be difficult to find faculty members to serve on the UAB, which can delay the hearing of appeals. 

The new, revised code will still aim for that same composition of the UAB but in cases where that is not possible will allow for a composition that aligns with the University Hearing Board, which includes two students and a faculty or staff member. 

How the code was revised

According to Compton, OHIO’s Student Code of Conduct was last revised in 2015, and revisions incorporated during that process included a requirement that the code be reviewed every two years. 

OHIO’s Review and Standards Committee is responsible for revisions to the Student Code of Conduct and is composed of students, faculty and staff from throughout the University. The committee also solicits input from the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility and, this year, from staff who are involved in reviewing possible interim suspensions.

Before presenting revisions to the code to the Board of Trustees for its approval, Compton shared the proposed revisions with Faculty Senate, Graduate Student Senate and Student Senate for their input. In addition, the draft of the proposed new code was available and open for comment on the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility’s website for approximately a month during spring semester. Feedback was received, reviewed and incorporated into the final draft of the code as appropriate.

The new Student Code of Conduct goes into effect Aug. 24 and will be available by Aug. 23 online at https://www.ohio.edu/communitystandards/code-of-conduct.cfm. The new code is available in the agenda for the Board of Trustees’ June meeting. Copies may also be requested by emailing the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility at communitystandards@ohio.edu.

Interest in getting involved in community standards?

There are many ways for students, faculty and staff to be involved in Ohio University’s judicial system, including serving on the University Hearing Board and the University Appeal Board. 

Those interested in learning more are encouraged to email the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility at communitystandards@ohio.edu.