For many students, the world outside the campus boundaries is a kind of safe haven — a place where students can indulge in a culture of partying and independence while the university’s back is turned.
And that’s why some students said they feel reluctant to embrace the conduct code’s new boundaries.
“I think everyone would agree that there are changes to the policy that need to be put into effect so that students feel safe,” said Steve Lopez, a junior kinesiology major and city resident. “I do feel as though the university is sort of overstepping its boundaries.”
Realistically, the policy expansion won’t have a huge impact on daily off-campus student life, said Josh Ratner, the Student Government Association student affairs vice president.
“If you’re in the small group of people that consistently cause problems in the city, then maybe your daily life will be impacted,” said Ratner, a junior government and politics major, adding that the university isn’t seeking to punish every student with a plastic cup or can of beer in his or her hand.
Despite the university’s perceived good intentions, there remains some hesitancy in the student population, particularly among Greek life representatives, many of whom are active members of off-campus life.
Michael Sikorski, the external affairs vice president for the Interfraternity Council, said the IFC chapter presidents understand the relevance and importance of the policy expansion but are unsure how it will be implemented in the community.
“Essentially, we do see it as a positive step — the university is catching up with the times and with our peer institutions,” Sikorski said. “But we definitely have lingering questions about how it will directly affect students and police relationships.”
In February, a murder-suicide in an off-campus house provided a sense of urgency and prompted a closer examination of student safety, Director of Student Conduct Andrea Goodwin said.
“Students in that house had concerns about their roommate, but didn’t know who to turn to,” Goodwin said. “It wasn’t obvious who to call or who they should report to in their off-campus living situation, in the absence of ResLife or a resident assistant.”
Additionally, permanent area residents have grown frustrated with student behavior — littering, partying, vandalism and public urination were frequent complaints at city forums, and relations between the city and university have become strained over the past decade.
But though they recognize changes need to be made, students don’t seem to have enough information to define their loyalties, Sikorski said, and the lack of information continues to hinder widespread student support of the expansion.
The IFC invited Goodwin to speak at their presidents’ retreat, which will be held this weekend. Sikorski said they hope her visit will “allow for more dialogue, so that the air will be a little more clear.”
The Office of Student Conduct has implemented several programs to reach out to students and educate them about the policy change, including a “knocks-and-talks” initiative, an advertisement campaign and lectures to students.
Despite these efforts, sophomore special education major Sarah Wofford, who lives in the off-campus University View, said she hasn’t heard anything about the policy expansion.
Ratner stressed the importance of students knowing the facts about the policy change, and the Office of Student Conduct remains open to any questions students may have.
“If you have the option to not have something on your record, it’s always a better option,” Ratner said. “At the end of the day, if you’re doing the right thing, you shouldn’t be concerned.”