Most Students Report Satisfaction With Campus Judicial Systems

March 29, 2011

Litigious students loom large, but most students involved in campus judicial proceedings say they were treated fairly and learned from the experience, according to survey results presented on Monday by the National Assessment of Student Conduct Adjudication Processes Project here at the annual meeting of ACPA-College Student Educators International.

"There's a lot of good news in the data," Steven M. Janosik, a consultant for the project and an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Virginia Tech, said in an interview.

Over three years, the project, known as Nascap, surveyed about 3,800 students who went through misconduct cases at 23 institutions of various types. Counter to the expectations of campus officials beset by complaints, researchers found that 79 percent of students felt they were treated respectfully, and 66 percent fairly.

More than half of the students reported recognizing how their misconduct had affected others, and nearly two-thirds said they understood administrators' concern with their behavior.

"Students put it in perspective pretty quickly," Mr. Janosik said. "They are quite benevolent toward those who hold them accountable for their behavior."

Students also reported benefiting from the campus-conduct system. Almost half of students said they had learned at least one skill in the course of their hearings; more than two-thirds said they were less likely to engage in the same behavior again. And just less than two-thirds said they were less likely to engage in any further misconduct at all.

The Nascap survey, now in its fourth year, also seeks to measure campus culture around misconduct. For example, over the past three years, 47 percent of students reported that their peers had held one another accountable for their behavior.

Mr. Janosik hopes to expand the Nascap project, to try to improve judicial systems nationwide. Annual campus reports tend to focus on the number of cases, he said to a roomful of conduct officers during a conference session here. Those reports may show which resident advisers are the biggest sticklers, he said, but they reflect little about students' experiences.

Along with other presenters, Mr. Janosik made several recommendations, gleaned from the unpublished survey data, including:

  • Inform students of their rights in the judicial system at least twice, in a prehearing conference and in writing.
  • Set learning objectives for conduct proceedings and make them explicit.
  • Encourage students to consider the long-term implications of their behavior.
  • Pay attention to tone of voice and nonverbal cues.
  • Adopt a customer-service approach, asking students, "Have I answered all of your questions?"

One college, reviewing its survey results, opted to change its methods for notifying students of misconduct charges. But many judicial systems are in good shape, said Mr. Janosik.

"Most seem to be doing a pretty good job," he said. "At least that's what students think."