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Miami makes wide-ranging changes to the Code of Student Conduct

On April 25, the Miami University Student Life Council approved changes to the Code of Student Conduct that will go into effect at the start of the 2019-20 academic year. These changes will affect what counts as prohibited conduct, punishments for certain violations and how disciplinary procedures are conducted.

Although the code of conduct is reviewed every year, said Dean of Students Kimberly Moore, often the changes made are minor adjustments to the formatting and/or language.

"Most of our changes were they way we present the information to students," Moore said. "We're trying to be more clear."

This year's review includes some more substantive changes.

"Our code of conduct hadn't been revamped in a very long time - I think, decades," said Jayne Brownell, vice president for student affairs and chair of the Student Life Council.

Some of the minor changes made include that the list of violations is now in alphabetical order, and Greek life is included in the larger umbrella term of "student organizations."

The following changes were made to the Prohibited Conduct Section:

  • Possession or use of a fake ID now counts as a violation of law, rather than as a dishonesty charge handled within the university.
  • The list of Title IX charges of sexual misconduct, interpersonal violence and sexual harassment now includes definitions of what constitutes each of these offenses - including non-consensual sexual intercourse, non-consensual sexual contact, sexual exploitation, indecent exposure, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. Though all of these charges were included previously, they were not explicitly defined.
  • The endangering health or safety charge is now separate from Title IX violations.
  • "Damage and/or theft of property" and "trespass or unauthorized use of facilities" are now two separate charges.
  • "Violation of university rules or law" has been separated into two charges: violation of law and violation of regulations for on-campus living. These two are also separate from "violation of sanctions" (which are disciplinary measures for previous violations) and "violation of university policy."
  • The weapons section now includes storage of a dangerous weapon, device or substance as prohibited activity, in addition to possession and use of a weapon, unless authorized by Miami University Police Department (MUPD). The revisions clarify that mace and pepper spray are allowed for personal protection, but an added clause prohibits the "misuse of weapons, devices, mace or pepper spray in a manner that causes or threatens serious harm to the safety or security of others."
    • Additionally, the code now outlines an exception to the weapons section, that any student with a valid concealed handgun license may transport or store a firearm or ammunition, given that they are kept in the student's vehicle and, while the student is not in the vehicle, that they are in a locked container. The vehicle must also be in a location it is permitted to be. This change is required by Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.1210.
  • The wording in the section on hazing is now meant to be clearer and is based on the Ohio state code definition of hazing.

Along with these changes, the chapter on sanctions saw some revisions.

The sanctions chapter no longer includes no-contact/restraining orders in the list of disciplinary restrictions, which are sanctions that "may be imposed with or without suspension, revocation of recognition, or probation" of a student or student organization.

The code now also says that a student cannot attend classes or university-related activities while suspended or expelled, and that all educational sanctions (such as mandatory health and safety courses) must be completed by the end of the suspension period, or they will remain suspended.

The most significant change to the sanctions chapter is related to hazing violations. After a first offense, the minimum penalty must include at least two of the possible sanctions listed in the code of conduct. This is true in both the old and revised code. But, in the new code, one of those possibilities, suspension, has been changed from a minimum of one semester to a minimum of five years in cases of endangerment to a student's health or safety.

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In cases of a second hazing offense, the university will revoke the offending organization's recognition on campus. Before the changes, organizations were removed for at least two semesters, but now the Office of Community Standards will determine how long an organization will remain off campus.

These hazing changes were made to reflect recommendations made in an "Honoring Fraternity" report conducted last fall by a fraternity revisioning committee.

Previously, suspensions of fraternities in serious cases of hazing generally lasted from three and a half to four years, Brownell said.

"We were typically looking to [suspend] until the current class graduated so that the fraternity had a good chance of starting over with a fresh culture," Brownell said. "What we have seen in the past few years is that that's not quite long enough, because a lot of times activity continues on for a year or two after suspension."

The revised code also includes restructuring the disciplinary hearing process for both suspendable and non-suspendable violations.

Brownell said that any violations that occur during the remainder of the current semester will be dealt with according to the unrevised code, even though the disciplinary process may take place next year, after the revised code has been put in place on July 1.

Ann James, Director of Community Standards, led the review of the code but was unavailable for comment.