When students have run-ins with the law they can usually expect the consequences that follow if they get caught, but what they might not expect is having to set up a meeting with their Dean.
The University policy titled ‘Jurisdiction of the Student Discipline System over Off-Campus Conduct’ gives the University the ability to apply disciplinary sanctions authorized by both the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Community Standards.
In an official report from 2005, the Student Rights and Responsibilities Committee published a rationale dealing with the controversy swarming the University policy that still lingers today.
“[The policy] broadens the University’s ability to act and to protect the safety of students and others,” the rationale states. “17 out of 17 state colleges and universities regarded as peer institutions have jurisdiction policies that are broader . . . [The] policy gives the University slightly broader discretion to decide whether or not to apply jurisdiction.”
However, students have expressed distaste towards the University policy and question how the police know when to notify the school if a student has a run in with the law in Narragansett or South Kingstown.
“I had a social host charge pending against me in which I faced two different fines of $500 from the Town of Narragansett and $150 from my realtor,” Jack Gilmour, a junior, said. “I honestly had no idea about the [off-campus jurisdiction] so I was shocked to see that e-Campus wouldn’t let me register for classes until I set up a meeting with the Dean of Students Office for something that had nothing to do with URI,” Gilmour said.
Students around campus have expressed similar concerns and have added that it is “unfair and invades privacy,” one student said. Jessica Rehling, associate dean of students who heads the community standards staff, addressed the lingering controversy swarming the policy.
“As a URI student, you represent URI in everything you do,” Rehling said. “ By negatively impacting the community in which you live, you are affecting the perception of URI students and in turn, the University…the University has the same high expectations of students’ activity on and off campus,” she said.
Seeing that off-campus students that aren’t from Rhode Island usually live in off-campus houses “down-the-line” in Narragansett or even South Kingstown, one may think that the University would only notified by these two police departments. Rehling said this isn’t the case and that in fact they get reports from a variety of places, including other universities.
“When [the Community Standards Board] receives a report, we review it to determine if it is more likely than not that a policy was violated,” Rehling said. “If so, we determine if it is more likely than not a policy was violated . . . as an example, we receive reports from the Newport Police, especially around the St. Patrick’s Day parade.”
It is fair to assume that the University’s administration has made drastic efforts throughout the past two decades to shade the bright light that was once shined in the 90s when URI was rated the top “party school” in the nation by the Princeton Review from 1994-96. With policies such as this, it’s clear that administration not only wants to eliminate disruptive behavior on campus, but also wants to eliminate such behavior off campus to create a better image of their students and the University.