With the expansion of the Code of Student Conduct, University Police and Prince George’s County Police will be able to refer a university student to the Office of Student Conduct in addition to pressing criminal charges — a change officials said is for the benefit of students.
“[The expansion of the Code of Student Conduct] is an enhancement, not a penalty,” University Police Chief David Mitchell said.
Though some students expressed concern over the changes, officials said the student conduct office wouldn’t target students with minor infractions. The safety and well-being of students, Mitchell said, is at the forefront of officials’ concerns.
“Our problem here … is not a freshman having their first beer or second beer; problem here is anyone having a dozen,” Mitchell said. “It’s a lack of self-control and poor decision-making. This is the kind of stuff that will kill you.”
The office will instead focus on more extreme issues, Director of Student Conduct Andrea Goodwin said, such as noise complaints, drug and alcohol distribution, hazing, sexual assault and criminal activity off the campus.
“The idea behind the extension is to try to help students become better neighbors and better citizens,” Goodwin said.
Students need to understand they are also residents of College Park and should treat the city with the same respect they have for the university, said District 3 Councilman Robert Day.
“Even though they are students of the University of Maryland, they are community members,” Day said.
In 2012, the city created a 26-member Neighborhood Stabilization and Quality of Life Workgroup, which included university, student and city officials who discussed solutions to community problems. Subcommittee meetings addressed noise complaints, large parties, neighborhood relations and vandalism — all issues Day said the expansion could solve over time.
City and university officials, students and police worked to educate residents and students living off the campus about the code expansion through “knock-and-talks” in the weeks leading up to the start of the semester. Officials were concerned about a lack of awareness of the changes, Mitchell said, so they planned the talks as a way to offer tips to students about being good neighbors and address city quality-of-life issues.
University Police will also patrol the greater College Park area through an agreement of concurrent jurisdiction with Prince George’s County Police, though the university has not announced exact boundaries.
The expanded Code of Student Conduct means University Police will play a larger role in the community, said Michael Sikorski, Interfraternity Council vice president of external affairs.
“If we can build a better relationship between police officers and students, a better trust, then students will approach police with problems when it’s late at night,” Sikorski said.