Off-Campus Misbehavior Leads to Far-Ranging Sanctions, Including Expulsions and Suspensions of Students, Says UMass Amherst Report

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst today released an updated report on student discipline for off-campus incidents, noting that 463 students in cases reviewed during the past academic year were found responsible and sanctioned for a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.
 
Dean of Students Enku Gelaye says, “UMass Amherst is sanctioning misbehaving students consistently, including suspensions and expulsions, and moving students more quickly to deferred suspensions, which means they are on notice that one more violation could result in immediate departure from the university. The message we are sending students is clear: Bad behavior has serious consequences.”
 
The report covers the period from June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2013. Overall, 684 students were involved in 479 incidents. In the most serious cases, such as violence against others, the university moved decisively to expel three students and suspend 15 others. Eighty-four students were placed on deferred suspension.
 
Of the 684 students involved in cases completed to date, 463 (68 percent) received sanctions. Most students cited in off-campus incidents are first-time offenders. There were 209 students (31 percent) involved in an off-campus incident who had at least one level 3 or 4 (more serious) incident in their history.
 
Gelaye notes that 60 percent of incidents were processed in less than one month, and 73 percent of incidents were processed in two months or less. The Dean of Students and her staff administer the code, and they meet weekly with the Amherst Police and receive reports of arrests and citations. The dean’s staff promptly reviews the evidence in each case. The standard of proof for deciding a matter is by a preponderance of the evidence. A student may request from the dean a written rationale for a conduct decision including how evidence was weighed and interpreted. Sanctions range from a reprimand to suspension and expulsion.
 
Acknowledging the concerns of Amherst residents, particularly those in neighborhoods near the campus, UMass Amherst officials launched several initiatives during the past year aimed at encouraging positive interaction between students and area residents.
 
Walk this Way, a campaign to divert students away from residential neighborhoods in the Fearing Street area, began last spring, says Gelaye. Volunteers, including students, faculty and staff, encouraged students to use a different route to and from downtown Amherst on weekend nights to avoid disturbing neighborhood residents. Led by the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking, the program will resume this fall and continue through the end of October.
 
UMass Amherst also introduced an online training program for students who are moving into off-campus housing to help them become more responsible and successful tenants. The program emphasizes personal finances, rental rules and regulations, and information about responsible behavior and how to be good neighbors. The Moving Off Campus OWL (Online Web-based Learning) training began operation April 5 and is available to UMass Amherst students and local landlords. Students who finish the program earn a certificate of completion that is recorded on the university’s Housing and Community Resources website. Landlords can log onto the site at www.umocss.org to see if potential tenants have completed the training.
 
The Positive Presence Initiative provides students opportunities to participate in various community service projects. A program of UMass Amherst’s Off Campus Student Services, it aims to develop a sense of civic responsibility among students and foster student connections to the greater Amherst community. Past and current service projects include tree planting in Sweetser Park, blanket-making for patrons of Craig’s Door, food drives for the Amherst Survival Center and game nights with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Positive Presence began in 2011.