Student Affairs Office revises disciplinary sanctions, policies

Judicial Affairs Administrator Mickey Toogood has managed a change in Tufts' disciplinary policies. Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily

The Student Judicial Process, which holds students and student organizations accountable for violations of university and local policies, was revised over the summer recess by the Student Affairs Office.

According to Judicial Affairs Administrator Mickey Toogood, most of the process has remained the same, though the scheme of disciplinary sanctions has undergone significant revisions.

The judicial process — which is managed by Toogood and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Chistopher Rossi in the Dean of Student Affairs Office — still includes hearings, Dean’s decisions and administrative resolutions, according to Toogood.

“The changes that I think are going to be most interesting to students are the changes in disciplinary sanctions,” he said.

The old scheme of sanctions was warning, Disciplinary Probation Level I (Pro I), Disciplinary Probation Level II (Pro II), suspension and expulsion, according to Toogood. The new scheme is warning, reprimand, probation, formal censure, suspension, indefinite suspension and expulsion.

Toogood said removing Pro I and Pro II will help students better communicate the meaning of their sanctions with people outside the Tufts community.

Probation level I and II isn’t something that is universally used by universities,” he said. “We wanted something that would translate better for students, because the more efficiently you can talk about what happened…the easier that conversation can go for students when they have to report their record out.”

In the new disciplinary scheme, a reprimand, rather than Pro I, follows a warning. Toogood noted that although it occupies the slot that Pro I used to fill, a reprimand is quite different from being placed on probation.

“A reprimand is not a new name for Pro I,” he said. “It is a non-disciplinary sanction … I think in the long term [a reprimand] is less severe for students.”

Two other new sanctions in the revised policy are formal censure and indefinite suspension, both of which are meant to be responses to serious violations, Toogood said.

“This is not a sanction that is designed to be used as an escalation if there are multiple violations,” he said. “It is if there are particular violations that occur at the university — obviously particularly serious violations.”

Formal censure takes a student out of good standing with the university until the student graduates or withdraws from Tufts, according to Toogood.

“It is sort of like permanent probation,” he said.

Indefinite suspension differs from a suspension because it does not prescribe when a student may return to the university, according to Toogood.

“An indefinite suspension does not have an end date,” Toogood said. “A student has to reapply, or apply for reinstatement with the university.”

According to Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon, warnings are still non-disciplinary, and suspension and expulsion have gone unchanged.

“Suspension means the same thing as suspension used to mean,” McMahon said. “Expulsion means the same thing as expulsion used to mean.”

Changes to the Student Judicial Process have made the document more concise, accessible and student-centered, Toogood said.

The Student Affairs Office worked with students on the Committee on Student Life (CSL) to help craft the new policy and guide the process, McMahon said.

“I think it is really important to note that all of these sanctions and the Code of Conduct review went through a student-staff review process and was approved by the CSL,” McMahon said. “It wasn’t just our individual decision, there was a process.”

Toogood said student input was important to the administration in this process.

“We want [the policy] to be not just understandable but meaningful to students,” Toogood said. “I don’t want to issue probation if it doesn’t mean anything.”

The disciplinary changes will affect student violations of the Code of Conduct, the Academic Integrity Policy and other policies in the Student Handbook, according to the Student Life website.

This includes how academic integrity violations are punished, according to Toogood. For example, the punishment for having “unauthorized materials” visible during an exam without proof of “cheating,” which previously would have been grounds for a suspension, is now formal censure.

The Student Judicial Process Handbook has been added to the new Student Life website, making it more navigable for students, according to Toogood.

“This is the first time that it has really lived online,” Toogood said. “One of my big goals when I took this job — and it is still one of my goals —  is to make things more transparent. And one of the reasons I think things weren’t as transparent as they could be was, for one thing, they weren’t available on the website this clearly.”

Toogood said the judicial process is on the website in an “accordion-style document,” allowing each section of the document to be maximized or minimized in a web-friendly layout.

“If I tell a student, ‘Hey, I’m sorry — you are on interim suspension,’ and they want to know what that is, they can just click on it and find out what it means,” he said.

The Student Affairs Office has also made minor revisions to the Academic Integrity Policy and digitized the information, according to Toogood. Prior to this, the academic integrity policy was in a 47-page physical booklet, which made it difficult to find specific information.

“Almost all of this information is still here; it is just a lot easier to find,” he said.

Toogood believes these changes will create more transparency in student judicial affairs. He hopes to further revise the Academic Integrity Policy in the future, with the input of faculty, students and staff.

“The last time [the policy] was visited was 10 years ago in 2006, so I think it deserves a revamping,” he said.