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Beyond the News

College students off-campus, but still on the radar

University Business, June 2018
Source: Alcohol and Other Drug Use at UMass Amherst Survey, 2012
Source: Alcohol and Other Drug Use at UMass Amherst Survey, 2012

Continued binge drinking and destructive student behavior have driven higher ed leaders to refine off-campus behavior policies. Parents have also asked for more off-campus supervision as students post legally dubious antics online.

Many policies give the institution room to discipline students for off-campus behavior, but clears them of legal obligations to do so.

“In the past, much of the misconduct that might have been subject to sanction would never have made it on the school’s radar screen. That dynamic has changed,” says Mike O’Mara, litigation department chair with law firm Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young.

Campus officials must determine whether they need to deploy additional staff to supervise students traveling for academic projects, clubs and athletics.

“We advise our schools to identify students to whom they have a broader duty,” says O’Mara, who works with higher ed clients. “This includes clubs, athletes sponsored by the university and students traveling as ambassadors of the school.”

A community effort

Officials at Towson University in Maryland work with local police and neighboring communities to set standards for off-campus discipline. City officers alert school officials when they give students citations for underage alcohol possession, public intoxication, noise violations, public urination and harassment of others.

If a subsequent campus investigation shows students also violated the university’s code of conduct, they will be charged a $250 fine, says Jana Varwig, Towson’s associate vice president for student development programs and services. Second citation fines are $500, plus $250 for the landlord.

Towson gives the city’s police department grant funds to increase patrols in neighboring areas on weekend nights. And Towson’s Off-Campus Student Services office teaches students to be good neighbors and respect community diversity through educational sessions and student ambassadors.

Since these policies began, says Varwig, off-campus complaints have diminished by two-thirds.

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