By Rula Al-Nasrawi
This is a word college students dread. Along with finals week, parking tickets and unfortunate drunken hookups, write-ups are not what students want to remember when looking back on their college experience.
Since the establishment of the UC system, the student code of conduct has reigned confidently statewide. UC Santa Cruz regulates student violations with the Code of Student Conduct, a rulebook several have chosen to transgress. And although many believe in the system wholeheartedly, many think there is plenty of room for improvement as well.
With the student population increasing each year at UCSC, there has been more enforcement of student conduct in recent years. As a result, students on campus are seeing the effects of mandates on campus judicial affairs with more write-ups and more students being put on probation each year.
Doug Zuidema, head of student judicial affairs, has been responsible for overseeing the judicial process on campus for the past eight years. Like students, he is affected by the growth of student judicial issues.
“I adjudicate well over 200 cases a year,” Zuidema said. “My predecessor about 17 a year.”
At the top of the food chain of campus officials, Zuidema deals mostly with student organizations, graduate students, felonies and any suspendible cases. Student Judicial Affairs handles all non-academic matters and the provost of each college deals with all of the college’s academic cases.
At the bottom of the judicial pyramid are the Residential Assistants (RAs), Neighborhood Assistants (NAs) and Community Assistants (CAs) who live in the residence halls. Regardless of the name differences, RAs, NAs, and CAs all have the same responsibilities of living among students and reporting illicit activities.
The Community Safety Officers (CSOs) are a step up, because unlike RAs, NAs and CAs, CSOs are not students at the university. All of these adjudicators are responsible for reporting incidents on a day-to-day basis. The Coordinators for Residential Education (CREs) meet with the students and create a voluntary resolution agreement.
And in the midst of this pyramid there is the Assistant College Administrative Officer (ACAO), a step up from the well-known CREs. The ACAO is generally known as the appeals officer for a student’s specific college, and there is one ACAO per college. The College Administrative Officer (CAO) is responsible for each pair of sister colleges as a whole.
Over the years the student judicial system has maintained a steady set of rules and regulations to keep students in check. While most of the Student Code of Conduct is composed of system-wide rules, many of the regulations are campus-specific as well.
Though the judicial staff of UC Santa Cruz is a large one, many question whether it is large enough to accommodate the growing mass of incoming students and cases.
The first step of any college student violation can be found in a dorm room, an on-campus apartment, or even a city bus.
While many students have received write-ups on the basis of noise, most noise violations are followed with the report of a controlled substance. This is where the report can turn into something more serious.
Violating the Student Code of Conduct gives grounds for citation on and off campus. And although many students claim to simply be at the wrong place at the wrong time, Zuidema clarifies that this does not provide a valid excuse.
“Your presence alone can lead to potential violation,” Zuidema said. “The reality is that there are some people that are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
There is also a significant difference between a write-up and violation as well. A write-up is simply an observation that can then potentially lead to violation, but not necessarily. Many cases are dropped before they even reach the point of violation.
UCSC judicial staff members push for communication between roommates to prevent blameless students from being involved.
Adrianne Waite, ACAO for Cowell College, said that staff members understand students’ aversion to ratting out their friends, while peer communication remains important.
“That’s a pure dilemma,” Waite said. “It’s about personal ethics.”
Typically, a citation is followed first by a warning, housing cancellation in advance, and finally, a termination of agreement.
The number of students put on probation after a warning increased by about 10 percent between 2006 and 2008.
Regarding drug possession, Zuidema described the issue of medical marijuana. Since UCSC is a public school funded by the government, it must abide by all federal laws; this includes a drug-free campus, prescription or not.
“We have to follow federal law, otherwise we risk losing federal funding,” Zuidema said. “You have to live off-campus if you need medicinal marijuana because we follow the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.”
Another vital issue is the recent explosion of online networking and its possible consequences. Thousands of college students upload pictures of themselves drinking, smoking and being reckless onto social networking sites such as Facebook on a daily basis.
University Inn RA Navid Adnani explains that this could definitely be detrimental to not only future RAs, but any UCSC student.
“I think Facebook should be a way to see what’s happened in the past,” Adnani said. “Don’t write them up, but offer an educational conversation of what you saw and then after that conversation keep an eye on the student. But I don’t think you should be written up for something that has already happened.”
Numerous students make private profiles and delete their RAs from their friends list on social networking websites in an effort to stay out of trouble and out of the CRE’s office.
Campus RAs are generally responsible for the initial incident reports, as they are the ones constantly surrounded by students.
Adnani, fourth-year and seasoned RA, is one of the selected few responsible for 210 residents at the University Inn. Adnani, as well as many others, work to keep students safe, occupied and substance-free.
“I think they look for someone who is approachable, someone you can talk to with concerns or issues,” Adnani said. “Someone that is firm enough to regulate and lay down the law if you have to.”
Judicial staff members collectively agree that as members of the UC system, students are required to abide by the rules and regulations presented to them.
“When you agreed to go to UCSC, you agreed to our Student Code of Conduct,” Waite said.
And although underage drinking is strictly enforced on campus, Adnani believes there are benefits to being a party-savvy RA.
“I think it’s a quality to have gone through that,” Adnani said. “You’re not shocked to see certain situations. You can tell for instance when someone is drunk, so you will react differently and you will handle the situation differently, and you will be more experienced.”
Yese Vega, second-year Cowell student, agrees that an experienced partier is a preferred RA type.
“Give us more advice about safety,” Vega said. “I need someone that’s been there and done that. Someone that knows what’s up.”
Zuidema explained that students do not necessarily receive the same penalties for the same incidents.
“We don’t have the same sanctions for set violations,” Zuidema said. “We look at it in terms of degrees.”
From Cowell to Oakes
Many UCSC students have had some sort of judicial run-in over the course of their academic career. However, a percentage of the student body says the amount of judicial run-ins varies from college to college.
Doug Anderson, third-year Cowell College student, voiced a popular opinion many peers share.
“There is too much ambiguity among the colleges,” Anderson said. “It seems like different places have different violations. And I think the problem comes up with the CREs and RAs.”
Adnani explained the possible difference of leniency between the colleges.
“I don’t know necessarily if it’s the college or if it’s individual RAs,” Adnani said. “I’ve heard of RAs buying alcohol for students, I’ve heard of RAs partying with students, and I think you have those RAs all over the spectrum.”
“And you also have the RAs who regulate in every college,” he said. “I can say that students are different at each college as far as what they are written up for, and the RAs may reflect that, because they are chosen from that same group of students.”
Zuidema asserts that although each college has its own unique characteristics, there is no apparent difference in leniency from college to college.
“Each college is going to have its own culture,” Zuidema said. “There’s really good partnering between the colleges and student judicial affairs.”
ACAO Waite also touched on the steady enforcement among campus adjudicators.
“Most CREs try to be consistent,” Waite said.
And although some UCSC students disagree with this consistency, others certainly do not. Daniel Crowley, fourth-year and Merrill College student, never experienced any severity from his adjudicators.
“They weren’t mean or anything,” Crowley said. “They just tell you what you need to do and let you go.”
Staff members state that although certain colleges may appear more lenient than others, all colleges rule under the same code of conduct and the same set of rules.
“Typically across campus, it takes about three to four violations before termination of housing,” Waite said.
Zuidema also seconds this statement by adding that each college focuses on consistent enforcement.
“The colleges have done a good job in centralizing their efforts,” Zuidema said.
Upon receiving a violation, a student will then be expected to complete a set of sanctions.
“Usually the CRE will give you some kind of assignment to find out about safety or other things before things get really official,” Adnani said.
Adnani also noted the mild inconsistency from CRE to CRE.
“Talking to the CRE really allows you to have that conversation during that meeting and also share what you saw and how it actually happened,” Adnani said. “At the same time, it makes it subjective. Every CRE can have a different background and level of how much they want to lay down the law.”
Many students express concerns with their judicial record coming back to haunt them in later years. But by law, any student’s judicial record remains private.
“Law schools ask about judicial records, and so do programs like Semester at Sea,” Waite said. “We do need student approval to disclose that information.”
Zuidema explains that when it comes down to it, all student codes have one priority: safety.
“We’re concerned with how at-risk students are putting themselves,” Zuidema said.
Vega, who is currently on judicial probation herself, explained that the partying has never crossed the line in any way.
“It’s college, everyone drinks,” Vega said. “I know that their priority is safety, but what we really need is better advice.”
Staff and students alike agree that educational programs like Student Health Outreach and Promotional Program (SHOP) are helpful and effective. SHOP deals with everything from alcohol and drug abuse to sexual health.
“[Partying] is made bigger than everyone does it. It’s definitely inflated,” Waite said. “SHOP does a lot to educate.”
After all the write-ups and the sanctions, and the disagreements, most students and staff members can come to the conclusion that although the system will never be completely fair, it can still be forgiving.
“Our judicial system is good in the sense that for the most part you will have a second chance,” Adnani said. “If you have a kegger on campus, if you’re dealing, certain things and you’re done. But for the most part you get a second chance. That’s cool.”