Embracing the "Do-Over"

What had started out merely as a place to convene and work through transition is already evolving into a forum where a diverse group of professionals are unwittingly reshaping the future of student conduct work.

Seldom are we presented an open opportunity to engage in such a significant do-over. Pace of day-to-day operations already rarely permits time for creative experimentation, but the field's increased emphasis on compliance, streamlined due processes, and litigation fears add hesitation to our willingness to prioritize new projects. 
Most, if not all, of us have that list of well-intentioned projects or when-I-get-time-someday-to-dos jotted on a mental note or scribbled on the post-it that's pushed to the back of the desk junk drawer (you know the one). But time escapes and other more urgent priorities nudge that post-it further into the land of rogue paperclips and dust bunnies. 
In light of [forced] entry into a new era of student conduct operations, how we do our work is already set for rapid change. In the moment, it is out of necessity, but by the time the state of global public health permits our return to business as usual, our field and how we do student conduct work will have already adapted in ways that are bound to fundamentally alter the profession. In just this brief time, we've witnessed:
  • Injection of empathetic language into written communication with students;
  • Creation of new educational and developmental sanctions;
  • Procurement of online resources and aids to meet varying student needs;
  • Renewed collaboration with campus and community partners;
  • Examination of the nuances of distance education;
  • Innovative uses of technology; and an
  • Adaptive response to individualized student needs.
Today's second discussion touched on the above just briefly as conversations were wrapping up, but it spurred a substantial realization. In just 24 hours and four sessions of ASCA Chats, it was already abundantly clear that the depth of these conversation had grown. What had started out merely as a place to convene and work through transition is already evolving into a forum where a diverse group of professionals are unwittingly reshaping the future of student conduct work.
There is little we can change about the causal factors that led to the uprooting of our routines. Last month's version of normal has already been discarded. What we are left with is a chance moment in time to reflect on our purpose, reframe our priorities, and reimagine our work. 
Below are snippets of the resources and conversations shared by participants during today's sessions on “Business as usual: Moving processes to the remote environment.” 
Flexibility in Processes
  • Those who have gone to general counsel seeking advice on shorting processes, adding pre-hearing meetings, changing requirements of in-person meetings (full board to single officer), or adding alternate resolution options have mostly received permission to go ahead, but recommend getting appropriate approvals first before deviating from any written or practiced processes and procedures.
  • Sanction deadlines becoming more flexible, some temporarily not placing registration holds to assist students but staying consistent 
Student Mental Health:
  • Staff seeing increase in student self-identification of need for mental health resources
  • Even if campus counseling staff meeting with students remote, they're limited to only serving students physically located within the state(s) where they're licensed.
  • For campuses that offer BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students), these screenings often still taking place via teleconferencing.
  • Thriving Campus software being looked at as possibility to fill gaps in mental health needs by providing students with connections to local providers (though does not address insurance or financial barriers).
  • Increased availability of online counseling and crisis services from 3rd-party sites/organizations
Online Community Service & Sanctions: Hearings with Multiple Persons:
  • Use of remote hearing boards
    • Some moving to direct questioning during hearing, but no video of panelist
    • Zoom breakout rooms being utilized to prep board participants prior to adding in student
    • Recommend creating script for online board hearings to include tips for how/when to speak, professionalism in remote setting, etc.
Written Communication:
  • General consensus that initial written communication with students (notice, charge letter, hearing invite, etc) should include “softer” language to address an understanding of this stressful time but need for processes to continue. Sample language shared with group can be found here.
  • Universities drafting document to outline expectations for remote conduct hearings. Xavier University was kind enough to share their written guidelines. 
  • Difficult to monitor privacy and adherence to guidelines on use of a support person during hearing when unable to see student's full surroundings via video/phone
    • Some warning that this would constitute additional code violations
    • Some giving reminders/warnings when problems observed
    • In one case, student did not want parent involved and had difficulty finding place within house to meet without parent overhearing
  • Conversations continue on how to best share case files with students to allow them to review without saving down copies. One suggestion was to read aloud at start of meeting.
  • LockLizard is example of paid software that purports to prevent unauthorized use of shared files.
Video and Phone Software Tips & Tricks:
  • Recognize need for captioning abilities on video calls for accessibility and looking for recommendations to meet this need proactively.
  • Zoom, Google Hangouts, and WebEx all being used for hearings/meetings
  • Zoom has option to sign a signature with mouse, which has been used if students wish to sign documents or to sign accepting responsibility during a pre-hearing conversation
  • Google Voice as free temporary solution to use personal phone, without own number
    • Temp number forwards calls and texts to you via computer or phone, able to set specific hours, etc. 
    • Tip: If you miss a call and call back, it will show the recipient your number. Remember to hide your number in your phone's settings.
Content Creation Occurring at Participants' Institutions:
  • Online civility course for use as reference and/or as sanction
  • Document on keeping meetings private though remote
  • Support documents for faculty regarding online academic integrity and remote AI reports/hearings—recommend contacting professors already teaching online for their expertise
Miscellaneous Observations:
  • Response and hearing attendance rates up now that students have fewer competing priorities
As always, the above descriptions, recommendations, and resources are those of the day's ASCA Chats participants and do not indicate any form of official guidance from ASCA. Our members and colleagues are truly embracing the opportunity for do-overs in how we serve our students as evidenced by the wealth of knowledge and ideas exchanged. No one is an expert on navigating today's unforeseen challenges, but we all have valuable roles in forging ahead to adapt our processes and ourselves. It's time to dust off that post-it and to see where your vision can take our profession next.
Want to join a future chat? Check out our schedule and register online
Have additional thoughts or recommendations on any of the questions/topics discussed during today's chats? Feel free to share in the comments.
Any opinions, stated or implied, are those of the author and do not reflect the official view, position, or endorsement of the Association for Student Conduct Administration.
The image drawn by artist Edward Koren first appeared in New Yorker on November 16, 1986.


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