Vincent Carilli, vice chancellor for student life at UT Knoxville, talks about some of the proposed changes to the student code of conduct and the impact on students on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.
Rachel Ohm/ News Sentinel.
Violations of the student code of conduct at the University of Tennessee are increasingly being resolved with educational sanctions as opposed to disciplinary action under a new code implemented last fall.
In 2016-2017, 65 percent of violations resulted in educational sanctions. In the fall of 2017 – the first semester of implementing the new code at the Knoxville campus – almost 83 percent of violations ended in educational resolutions.
“The violations themselves are not substantially different under this new code of conduct but it’s how we’re adjudicating them that’s the critical piece,” said Betsy Smith, director of UT Knoxville’s Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.
“We’re trying to work on our recidivism rates and educate students on what they did to violate the code so they can make better decisions going forward.”
New code adopted last fall
Read more: Debate over new student code put lawmakers back at odds with the University of Tennessee
Officials at UT have emphasized the educational aspect of the code, which eliminates some of the legalistic and punitive language in the previous version, which hasn’t seen major updates in about four decades.
Vince Carilli, Vice Chancellor for Student Life at UTK, talks about the university revising their alcohol policy and making the campus smoke free Thursday, Jun. 29, 2017. (Photo: Michael Patrick/News Sentinel)
Other changes include the elimination of a separate judiciary board for issues concerning fraternities and sororities and the establishment of a streamlined disciplinary committee that includes students, faculty and staff, rather than the previous all-student model.
The new code also put in place amnesty and “Good Samaritan” policies that allow students to reach out for help “in event of a health, safety or welfare emergency” without being punished for violating rules in most circumstances.
“In the past the Legislature was skeptical, but I think they were really pleased with the work we’ve done to ensure a smooth transition to the new code,” said UT Vice Chancellor for Student Life Vincent Carilli.
What kinds of violations are happening?
In 2016-2017, under the old code, there were 2,158 reported violations of the student code of conduct at UT Knoxville. Of those, responsibility was found in 1,763 instances.
More than 30 percent of the reported violations were related to alcohol policy and more than 10 percent were related to drugs or drug paraphernalia.
Those types of violations are similar to what other universities across the country are seeing, according to Carilli, though he added that drug violations and in particular, marijuana use, have been increasing recently.
In the fall of 2017, under the new code, about 33 percent of reported violations were related to alcohol policy and 11 percent were related to drugs and drug paraphernalia.
While it is still too early to say whether the updates to the code have led to fewer violations, Carilli said he is hopeful that the emphasis on education will lead to fewer students re-offending.
“The code has only been in place for one semester, so it’s still too early to tell, but we are hoping it will lead to lower recidivism rates,” he said.
UT is also working on a review of its alcohol policy, which currently prohibits all students, including those over age 21, from drinking on campus. Recommendations on the policy review could come before the board of trustees this summer, Carilli said.
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