OSU Student Conduct reflections

This post represents thoughts and reflections regarding my fall practicum with Oregon State University’s Office of Student Conduct. To satisfy the grading requirements for this experience, I am including the required verbiage. Hopefully, I can add relevant content to each section.

1) Discussion related to the CSSA program competencies which you intended to meet through this experience and how these outcomes were/were not met;

I should begin this section with the disclaimer that there are 9 competencies that all CSSA students must show competency in, in order to graduate. Each competency has sub-sections. For example: 1a, 3b, etc.

For my Student Conduct practicum, I intended to develop the following competencies:

  • 1c. Standards of good practice in student affairs and ethical responsibilities of the student affairs professional
  • I think my student affairs context of existence is bounded by standards of good practice due to my previous developmental experiences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. My entire student affairs career has been framed by my need to be ethical. In my career I have had access to information ranging from grades to pregnancy to misuse of funds. Each situation has created my inner ethos. My practicum at Student Conduct has challenged me to say the least. How do you sanction a student who is using marijuana to regulate a learning disability? How do you create a positive experience that has been forged in a negative one? These are just a few of the questions that I have faced on a daily basis while working as a “designee” of the conduct office.

  • 2a. Transitional issues faced by students before and after their tenure in higher education settings
  • This seems very obvious…most of the students that I see during informal hearings are first-year students who are trying to finding their way in a new world filled with freedom, choices, and alcohol. Each conduct hearing is usually 1 hour. In that hour I develop a relationship with a student. The hearings are part academic advising, counseling, wellness, and “restorative justice.” I call upon more skills during that 1 hour than I have to use in a week with my assistantship. For example: I sanction a student to write 2 reports, put them on probation, and they end up thanking me when they leave because they know that I am trying to help them out. I use a lot of my UIC Wellness Center experiences to help craft customized sanctions for students. The conduct office staffers have started calling me “Eric the Hammer.” I take it as a compliment. Hammers have been used to craft samurai swords. I guess I’m working on crafting better citizens.

  • 2b. The various and changing needs, goals, affinities of students within varied higher education settings (i.e. community college, private, public, etc)
  • I didn’t really “meet” this competency. Initially, I had planned on attending the Oregon Judicial Officers meeting. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend due to my Cross Cultural Counseling class.

  • 2c. The diversity of student populations including, but not limited to, age, socioeconomic status, gender, race, and ethnicity, language, nationality, religion or spirituality, sexual orientation, ability, and preparedness
  • I think that most of the students that I see at conduct are White, middle class, and are from Oregon. They all have different stories but sometimes they do seem to have parallel lives…perhaps preparedness is one aspect of this competency that I have met. A lot of the students that I see are first-year students and they have absolutely no idea what they need to do to succeed in college. I wish every student at OSU had to take an Odyssey class (first-year experience course).

  • 2d. Theories related to student development and potential practical applications
  • Involvement, involvement, involvement. 99% of all conduct hearings are with students who have absolutely no connection to the university outside of the classroom. Thanks Astin! Oops! I almost forgot Sanford. I think conduct students face a huge “challenge” with the process of paying fines, making appointments, and going to court (you can see my bias here…most students I see are in trouble due to underage drinking or substance use…). I try to “support” students by sanctioning them to complete tasks or conduct research that is pertinent to their daily lives. I don’t throw the hammer randomly. I use it to wrap the sanction around an existing issue in their lives. It’s like a nudge via the hammer.

  • 3c. Organizational structure, dynamics, and leadership
  • I feel that I met this competency through staff meetings, one-on-one meetings with DS, and through my own constant questioning of the current processes at OSU Student Conduct. I usually don’t deal well with responses that say, “well, it’s the way we have always done it…” That has the effect of jumpstarting my inner efficiency/process /question generator.

  • 3d. Legal issues critical in guiding and influencing practice
  • This competency is a sticky one. I guess if I had to formally assess my learning, I would say that I did not meet this competency. I’m sure that sounds awful, but I was already familiar with the standards of practice for conduct. In a previous life, I use to chair conduct hearings for UIC’s Student Judicial process. I think this competency would be met by any student who had no previous conduct experience.

  • 4a. Design and implement thorough assessment efforts including the identification of new key questions, resources, and target populations
  • I never had time to work on assessment due my informal hearing schedule. The conduct office is really understaffed and I am unsure how a culture of assessment could ever evolve within their current staffing situation.

  • 4b. Create instruments and/or protocols for assessing important questions
  • I think I naively thought that I could “meet” too many competencies with this practicum. I’ve had a great experience but I did not meet competency #4b.

  • 4c. Credibly convey key findings and recommendations to stakeholders and constituents
  • I guess I could say that I conveyed information that was relevant to DS and JC with regards to how I process individual informal hearings. I also had a chance to pass on a few tidbits of advice to the formal conduct committee. Again, what was I thinking when I filled out my competency list for this practicum?

  • 5a. Design original programs including the identification of resources, needs, and goals
  • My signature student sanction (say that three times fast!) is the advising meeting. Most students that I talk to have a relationship with their advisor that is about as meaningful as my relationship with the butcher at Fred Myers. Oftentimes I have students meet with their advisor and then email a summary report back to me within a set parameter of time. This has been a great sanctioning technique. Students have reported back to me that their meetings have been very beneficial and some have even changed their major. I guess this probably is not original but the added connection of the email report means that the student has to write me back which ensures a completed sanction. It’s not very easy to fake an advisor meeting, especially when I might follow-up with their advisor…

  • 6a. Develop and share ideas and concepts to students, staff, or faculty groups outside of the CSSA classroom
  • Conduct is a confidential “business” at best. A lot of my collegial sharing came in the form of sanction brainstorming with fellow CSSA students and OSU Student Affairs staff. I could not share specific stories, but I could ask for guidance regarding issues that were interconnected. Such as the aforementioned pot smoker with a learning disability.

  • 6b. Incorporate original and innovative techniques that are appropriate and engaging in sharing these ideas
  • This is the best part of the conduct experience. It is such a conundrum. How do you recount your experience without divulging confidential conduct experiences and/or alienating fellow conduct staffers? I think I definitely learned how to speak to the feelings of a situation and not the specific context. It’s a lot like the UIC Wellness Center. You can’t talk about the story but you can talk about the paper it’s written on and the structures which are used to craft it.

  • 6c. Reflect on the experience and make constructive changes and improvements
  • 90 hours of practicum experience was not enough for me to affect change on a major level, but I do feel that my attitude towards sanctioning might have an impact on the culture of the office. I definitely leveraged my previous conduct experiences, and my learning from Fundamentals of Counseling, to assist with the incorporation of new techniques. In fact, listening can be used to heighten rapport with students. Instead of filling silence with words, fill it with wordless time. Some students simply needed time to sort out what they wanted to tell me.

  • 7a. Positively manage, develop, and engage in working relationships with faculty, staff, and students across functional and institutional boundaries.
  • I have met a lot of key players in the OSU conduct world. SE is a well of endless patience. I admire his ability to take on an ever growing mountain of conduct violations. Conduct is all about functional and institutional boundaries. I have developed relationships with several student and academic affairs employees. EA is another example of someone who helps the conduct process at OSU. His work revolves around the most favored intoxicant at OSU and he is one of the best educators in this field that I have met. We could have used him at UIC! KT and EA would have been an unstoppable force.

  • 7b. Initiate and participate in working alliance and teams with a wide range of people across cultural boundaries.
  • The formal conduct committee would be the closest thing in my experience that meets competency #7b. Although I did not initiate the formation of the committee, I did get the chance to participate in multiple hearings with them…

  • 7c. Take on key leadership roles though these partnerships and collaborations
  • I started writing that I did not meet this competency. Upon further reflection, I have decided that I did indeed take on a key leadership role. I attended 2 educational workshops called IMPACT and I served as one of three conduct officers at OSU. I’m glad I attended IMPACT. How could I ever sanction students to something that I have never attended/completed?

  • 7d. Serve as advocate, counselor, and/or advisor to students or student groups
  • Informal conduct hearings are like mini counseling sessions. Students have told me a myriad of personal stories that have enabled me to give them sanctions that are individually appropriate. It’s an odd way to “meet” #7d but I’d say it works. I am an advocate, counselor, and advisor to every student who walks into the conduct office. I have definitely been tested by some students who think that we practice punitive conduct practices. It is challenging when someone lies to you repeatedly, but professionalism takes over and you give them a sanction and wish them well.

  • 7e. Manage and/or mediate conflict, crisis, or problematic circumstances
  • Competency #7e should be entitled “The Conduct Competency.” 99% of all of my hours at conduct were spent managing/mediating a conflict, crisis or problematic circumstances. I could write a novel about my informal hearing skills!

  • 8a. Seek out a comprehensive and well-rounded graduate and professional experience
  • Conduct is the buffet of student affairs. Underage drinking, academic dishonesty, sexual assault, theft, substance abuse, etc. are usually the cause for most hearings. Then the counseling/advising/advocating part starts. A lot of departments, units, functional areas, etc. find their way to conduct. I hope that someday my conduct experiences will help me in my future role as a Dean of Students.

  • 8c. Reflect on graduate, professional, and personal development experiences toward greater self-understanding
  • Listening and Empathy. Thank you Dr. Ingram for teaching me that I needed to listen and that empathy is a lot better than feeling sorry. If I had a dollar for every time I reflected on my own undergraduate experiences, when engaged in a conduct hearing, I would be rich. Conduct has been great in that I am constantly thinking about the past, present, and future. I think about my previous experiences as an underage drinker and how I did not get caught. I think about my current graduate life and how that life has completely changed who I am…for the better I think. I look to the future and how much I want to do with my degree/experiences. I don’t think people should ever say that they go to school to “get the piece of paper.” I went for the experience and it has been a life altering one.

  • 8e. Engage in thoughtful career planning and decision making exercises
  • 3 words: Dean of Students. This is the job that I have been working towards since my tenure at UIC. Conduct experience is crucial for a Dean of Students. Just ask LD or JB. Dean’s deal with student life on the ground. I believe that this conduct experience has added value to my career plans and that I have also been able to expand my professional network.

  • 9a. Awareness of one’s cultural heritage and how it affects identity development, world views, values and assumptions
  • I am a straight — white — man. I am middle class and I grew up in a small, mostly homogeneous town in Iowa. I am very aware of who I am. I have worked really hard to overcome my inner prejudices and biases. During my time with conduct I have met with students of color, students with disabilities, and white students. I am distinctly aware that my experience is framed from within the dominant culture and that I am very able. I have sought out guidance from colleagues when an experience was outside of my current awareness and I have also been reading bell hooks’ “Teaching Community” which has furthered my personal understanding of my “lens.”

  • 9b. Knowledge of systems of privilege and oppression as well as knowledge of groups and individuals who are different from self
  • White privilege exists. If you don’t agree with me, check out Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Napsack.” I am continuously expanding my knowledge of privilege and oppression. This practicum with conduct did not meaningfully contribute to my growth in #9b but I do strive to maintain a multiculturally competent life long learning regimen.

  • 9c. Skills to challenge and support individuals, groups and organizations in a manner that maximizes multiculturally sensitive and appropriate practices
  • I would like to say that #9c was addressed in my practicum in a tangible and appropriate way. I am aware that multiculturally sensitive and appropriate practices are taking place in the conduct office. I was just not directly involving in the planning or execution of these practices.

  • 9d. Ability to identify areas of personal and professional growth in improving one’s own multicultural competence
  • I did not meet #9d in my practicum experience. I continue to read, to discuss, to risk emotional/intellectual difficulties in my own journey.

2) Discussion related to the CSSA program competencies or other learning outcomes that you acquired but did NOT expect to gain from the practicum experience;

I think my expectations for competency development were greater than the reality of my situation. Section 1 details the competencies that were hit and the competencies that were missed…

3) Observations, reactions, and analyses related to your experience, compelling readings, or other points of interest as they relate to your practicum.

This experience has been tremendous. I have been able to meet with several students and have had a number of meaningful conversations. This practicum gave me what I was looking for: additional conduct experience and an increase in student contact.

I have had such a profound experience that I am actually going to negotiate the inclusion of regular student conduct hearings within my current graduate assistantship. Time will tell…but I can tell you one thing. Conduct hearings will never stop. I had 5 hearings last week and 4 this week.