Incidents of expulsion and suspension were cut in half last academic year, a decrease University administrators attribute to a more flexible alcohol policy.
Fourteen students were suspended and four were expelled during the 2010-2011 academic year, according to data compiled by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities – the offshoot of Student Judicial Services that handles extreme behavioral violations.
Prior to fall 2010, students who were hospitalized twice due to alcohol overconsumption would be suspended from the University. Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira said she feared the policy deterred students from calling for help during an emergency.
“Getting help is more important than the disciplinary process,” Pereira said.
The University took a more evaluative approach with disciplinary proceedings upon a second hospitalization starting last year, she said.
Now, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities first conducts a professional evaluation of the student’s alcohol-related behavior before a judicial hearing. Then the University determines whether the student should be removed from campus due to the potential for more serious actions or whether they can remain.
“This approach is focused on having students obtain a professional evaluation of their alcohol-related behavior prior to determining whether or not a separation from the University is necessary through a disciplinary process,” Pereira said.
This year marked the end of a recent year-to-year increase in student suspensions and expulsions, Pereira said.
During the 2009-2010 academic year, 30 students were suspended and seven were expelled. Seventeen students were suspended and five were expelled in the 2008-2009 academic year.
The possession and distribution of drugs accounted for about half of the expulsion and suspension cases in the past two years, Pereira said. The distribution of marijuana, the possession of cocaine or hallucinogens and multiple violations of the University’s drug policies are grounds for suspension or expulsion, depending on severity.
Other cases involved physical and sexual violence and multiple serious alcohol policy violations.
If the student remains on campus, he or she receives a deferred suspended status, with a warning that with a third offense he or she will be suspended.
With Halloween approaching, a holiday that typically sees the highest number of medical transports of the year, Pereira said she strongly stresses the ideals of the Be Wiser responsible consumption campaign.
Last year, a record 34 percent of alcohol-related transports to the hospital were results of students calling for help.