Jan 282013


By Wesley Brown

Monday, January 28, 2013

To beef up enforcement of its student code of conduct, East Carolina University plans to fill an open assistant director position to handle a caseload that last year included more than 2,900 charges, officials said this week.

The hire would round out the staff at the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and possibly bring new balance to the University Neighborhood Revitalization Workgroup, the department director said.

For the past two months, an ad-hoc committee has been studying ways to improve relations between the city and ECU by resolving issues related to student renters in the Tar River and College View historic districts.

Off-campus enforcement largely has been left to city code officers. However, residents of the two neighborhoods proposed at a town hall meeting hosted this week by District 3 City Councilwoman Marion Blackburn that homeowners, code officers, and ECU staff work together to curtail recurring violations such as widespread trash, loud parties and property destruction.

“We will certainly look into any report filed at our office, investigate it, and if we have enough information, find the student responsible and assign sanctions,” Maggie Olszweska, director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, said of her four-person staff, chartered to govern on- and off-campus student conduct. “But typically, basic housing violations are not covered under the student code of conduct.”

Last year, the office handled 2,662 cases — most of which took place on campus — but also dealt with noise, alcohol, drug and sexual assault complaints off campus, records showed.

In 2,144 of the cases, staff filed 2,922 charges — a case can involve multiple students and violations. Of those charges, 1,804 of were alcohol and drug violations.

Olszweska said residents can file a complaint with her office online at ECU.edu/osrr. The form requires contact information from the reporter, the name of the student involved and a brief narrative of the incident, Attaching documentation can help the investigation, Olszweska said.

The report then is sent to staff to review to see if the reported violation is covered under student code of conduct.

The code of conduct, available online at ECU.edu/prr, covers a wide range of violations, including possessing, distributing, using, manufacturing, assembling, storing, transporting, selling, purchasing or acquiring any weapons alcohol or drugs. Also prohibited is non-consensual sexual contact, fighting, harassment, bullying or intimidation, hazing, stealing, vandalism, trespassing, forgery, fraud and gambling.

Not included are parking violations, which often top residential complaints.

“For example, if a student is parking their car on the front lawn, that is not covered,” Olszweska said. “But if they are destroying property, having loud parties or are consistently throwing trash into the street, that would apply.”

Investigations of a report can vary in time, stretching from two weeks to several months, depending on whether it involves one or multiple students and one or multiple violations.

Olszweska said her office will notify students of the allegations, and they have the right to appeal.

As required by the university, the office must wait at least five business days to meet with students. She said usually only one of four staffers or a residential hall coordinator is assigned to a case.

Penalties can range from a warning, probation, community service, educational projects, counseling, a no-contact ban with the victim, restricted privileges from university functions, restitution, suspension, expulsion or revocation of degree.

“Obviously, we use expulsion and suspension very sparingly,” Olszweska said. “Most cases will result in some kind of educational sanction because our mission is to educate the students why the behavior was inappropriate and help them learn and redirect their behavior so hopefully they will not repeat in the future.”

Olszweska said restitution is for damages, and that the university does not fine students, “because it does not necessarily have an educational benefit in our eyes.”

Eviction is up to the homeowner, she said.

The outcome and specific details of each case is protected under the U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.


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