Colleges Aim for Off-Campus Control
A growing number of universities are starting to take a more proactive approach to monitoring off-campus behavior and neighbors say the efforts are working.
The University of Washington now enforces its campus behavior code off campus as well. A student doesn't need to be charged with a violent crime to activate the campus code at this Seattle university. Being cited for breaking the city's noise regulations is enough to score an invite to the student conduct office.
Architecture professor Earl Bell, who bought a house in the University Park neighborhood 40 years ago, says he has discovered that there's a fine line between convenient and too close.
"We've all got a kind of love-hate relationship with the University of Washington," said Bell, acknowledging that he and his neighbors have noticed a slight improvement lately.
The University of Colorado-Boulder and Penn State also are taking a broader view of offenses that can activate the campus discipline system. In Colorado, the code regulates any conduct that "affects the health, safety or security of any member of the university community or the mission of the university."
Since most college students live off campus, colleges that want to be on top of discipline need to extend their reach beyond their own real estate.
To some, this may sound like an overreaching of university authority; to others, it's a teachable moment.
"We have a responsibility to educate our students about being responsible citizens," said Elizabeth A. Higgins, Washington's director of community standards and student conduct, whose office has "educated" 19 students since the extended code of conduct took effect in January.
The legal ramifications of these policies are not entirely known, said Sheldon Steinbach, a lawyer with the American Council on Education, representing the president's office at 1,800 colleges and universities.
"I fully anticipate a judicial challenges over time," said Steinbach.
Penn State's rules are similar to those at the University of Washington, but as university spokesman Bill Mahon points out, he has to first hear about a student behaving badly. Some local police departments work closely with campus authorities, passing along arrest information; others do not.
For example, if a Penn State student breaks the rules over the weekend in State College Borough, the university would probably hear about it on Monday morning, but the same violation in another town would go unnoticed.
"It's an imperfect system," Mahon said.