When They Leave the Nest . . .

What Eagle parents should know about UMW’s community standards

 At UMW, we are committed to the success of all our students. We want them to have the best educational experience possible.  We want them to spread their wings, to be active citizens in a community of scholars, to develop their leadership skills, to learn the value of serving others, and to understand the importance of honor and integrity. We also want them to have fun, and to have good times that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Like any community, UMW has expectations about how individuals and groups within it will conduct themselves. These “community standards” are not difficult to follow. Some are based on local, state, or federal laws – for example, underage students are not allowed to consume or possess alcohol. Others are based on our collective experience of what works best in our community – for example, requiring students to sign in as guests when they visit a residence hall that is not their own. All of these community standards – what we call our “Code of Conduct” – are intended to create an environment in which every student’s success and well-being are the highest priorities.

Most conduct issues here are minor — excessive noise, visitation violations in the residence halls, underage possession of alcohol, property damage, etc. Others are more serious, such as alcohol intoxication, harassment, physical violence, illegal drugs, or sexual assault. These are not common, but we are equipped to handle them if they arise.

We also hold students accountable for incidents in the greater Fredericksburg community. Students are encouraged to be “good neighbors” when away from campus, to represent UMW positively at all times, and to understand that arrests have consequences both off and on campus.

If your student is accused of a Code of Conduct violation, he or she may simply be asked to meet with an administrator informally to discuss what happened. Or, we can ask your student to attend a more formal student conduct hearing, to determine whether or not a UMW policy was violated.  Depending on the situation, hearings are conducted by Student Affairs administrators, or by a panel of peers elected by the student body. The focus of the student conduct process is education, and support is at the heart of it. The process does not determine whether or not a student violated a law; it determines, based on the evidence, whether he or she violated a UMW policy. Hearings are not “trials.” More information about our student conduct processes can be found here.

All conduct violations become part of a student’s educational record while he or she remains at UMW, and usually for three years after. Only suspensions and expulsions appear on the transcript, however. Students are encouraged to remember law schools and potential employers often check applicants’ conduct records. More information about our student conduct record retention policy can be found here.

How can parents help?

1)      Tell your student what’s not OK with you. Yes, many of them are learning to be independent, but they still look to you for guidance. If you don’t want them using alcohol or marijuana, say so, and be specific. “Don’t get into trouble” sends a mixed message!

2)      Talk to your student about alcohol.  Perceptions of alcohol use are often inaccurate. In a recent study, 98% of students thought the typical UMW student had consumed alcohol during the previous month. In reality, only 61% of our students drank during that period. Furthermore, 25% of UMW students report complete abstinence from alcohol. Abusive consumption of alcohol is not the norm here, and intoxication never justifies or excuses disrespectful behavior or violence.

3)      Talk to your student about drugs. Research shows that just two brief conversations with your student can reduce marijuana use for at least a year. For teens already using marijuana, this conversation can reduce use by up to 20%. At UMW, 73% of students report having never used marijuana. UMW does not tolerate the possession or use of illegal drugs, including marijuana.

4)      Talk to your student about sex. Your student should understand that sexual activity and alcohol don’t go together. Inform him or her that agreeing to sexual activity requires a sober “yes” from the other person and is not just the absence of a “no.”  Encourage your student to intervene in a safe way if they are at a party and witness someone being “hit on” who appears uncomfortable.

5)      Talk to your student about values. To be a member of this community means that one speaks out against injustice, and works diligently to help create a great living and learning environment for everyone. This does not require having any unusual skills or taking any significant risks.  All it requires is compassion and caring in a world where it sometimes is easier to turn one’s head and say, “That’s none of my business. I don’t want to get involved.”

6)      Talk to us, and trust us. We view parents as allies, and believe that together we can create student success. Let us know if you have a conduct-related concern. We will not always be able to give you details, particularly if another student is involved. Having said that, our first question for you often will be, “Who has your student told about this?” Most of the time, a situation can be most quickly resolved when the student affected by it brings it to our attention. Chances are we’ve dealt with a similar situation before, and we will bring our professionalism and experience into play in order to assist your student.