A Developmental Framework for A Code of Student Conduct: The NCHERM Group Model Code Project
This project was borne from intense internal debate within The NCHERM Group about the merits of model codes, as a concept. We were torn. We’ve written more than seventy-five codes of conduct for various college and university clients. All are different, and were custom crafted in a collaborative process of identifying goals, needs, and the unique qualities of each campus culture. One size-fits-all was not the NCHERM way.
Yet it was clear to us that previous model codes had contributed immensely to the progress of the field of student conduct. Campus conduct systems would not have evolved as effectively as they have without models to show the way. However, we also recognized that model codes fostered conformity rather than reflecting the nuanced differences between campuses. Some campuses took short cuts, and did not adapt the models to fit their campus cultures and climate, despite the warnings of previous model code authors. Model codes gave premature momentum to ideas that weren’t fully explored, such as high standards of proof. And, model codes unintentionally contributed to the quickening pace of creeping legalism in the field, a trend that began prior to the publication of the first model codes.
We decided to write a model code to help shape the future evolution of the field because model codes have become the primary conduit for doing so. But, our work rests on the foundations laid by Gary Pavela, Ed Stoner and John Wesley Lowery, and the work their model codes began. We could not offer ours if they had not offered theirs, and we are in their debt.
We set out with manifold guiding precepts to craft a model:
- That stemmed the tide of legalistic codes by putting the developmental voice first, while still quietly heeding the necessary legal underpinnings of conduct codes;
- Containing rules that were focus-grouped with students, for we too often seek to govern their conduct without their input;
- That would be a tool of education, prevention, social justice, and community-building as much as a retrospective gauge of whether misconduct has occurred;
- Deeply imbued with the values, mission, and ethos held dear within institutions of higher education;
- That offered clear expectations, well-defined terms, and elegantly simplified procedures;
- Whose language was policy-based, rather than legalistic and archaic (to wit, the words “shall” and “charge” have been banished);
- Whose flexibility would take us away from an era of rigid procedural frameworks to better allow our developmental and educational aims to inculcate mature decision-making and guide our students to better align their actions with their values;
- That would embrace social justice as a hallmark of a document rooted in the origins and the now of the civil-rights movement;
- That would lean heavily toward conflict resolution mechanisms and investigation functions;
- That would fundamentally reimagine the appeals process that on too many campuses is either broken or increasingly dysfunctional;
That’s an ambitious manifesto. Have we done what we set out to do? That is not for us to say. Our ideas will be ratified by your adaptation and implementation or defeated by your rejection. All we can do is offer them for your consideration. We know that our ideas don’t magically define best practices, and we expect that some of our more progressive ideas will take some getting used to. We are not the only source of expertise on this subject, and so our code project is being offered with a unique opportunity to engage the entire field in the iterative and evolutionary development of our project.
Our code project is not annotated in law review style, in an intentional effort to de-legalize the tone and nature of our model. Further, our code offers flexible procedures, and often suggests several alternative language options for you to consider. These are noted in the text with boldface type set off between brackets. Additionally, we offer our code in multiple versions and sections. We have three versions available for download, one for public universities, one for private institutions and one for community colleges. This was non-negotiable from the start for us, because of how meaningfully different these types of campuses are. Lastly, we have divided our code into four parts: Preface, Rules, Procedures and Community Standards. Our preface addresses theme issues such as mission and values, and policy issues such as jurisdiction and the confluence of criminal proceedings. The rules are our laundry list of thou-shalt-nots, organized by the five key values we’ve chosen for our model (yours may vary) and framed as positive expectations. Our procedures offer our take on a model set of conduct procedures, and lean heavily on civil rights concepts, conflict resolution and investigation functions. Community standards are our extended policies on alcohol, gambling, hazing, etc., which amplify on our rules with broader and clearer expectations. We also offer supplements to the free models, including our model voluntary/involuntary medical/psychological leave protocol, and our NCHERM Group/ATIXA One Policy, One Process Model, which allows the resolution of all discrimination claims involving all employees and students through one unified policy and process. So that you can get to know our work product, we published our public, private, and community college (unannotated) versions for free to the higher education community with the expectation that you will adapt, modify and revise it to fit your institutional needs, culture and values.
Of course, the services of The NCHERM Group remain available to you, should your campus wish to have us:
- Assist in your code review, updating and/or implementation process;
- Train your campus conduct advisors, investigators, hearings officers and appeals officers;
- Assess compliance with any law or statute impacting on the student conduct process.
With kindest regards,