Like any community, UMW has expectations about how individuals within it will conduct themselves. These expectations are not onerous, and they are guideposts to acting honorably and with integrity at UMW, and within the greater Fredericksburg community. Some are based on local, state, or federal laws. Others are based on our experience, as student affairs professionals, of what works best in our community. All of these community standards – our Code of Conduct – are intended to create an environment in which each and every student’s success and well-being are the highest priorities.
Almost all conduct issues that arise here are relatively minor. These include noise and visitation violations in the residence halls, and incidents in which students bring prohibited items (microwave ovens, mini-refrigerators, unapproved animals, etc.) into the residence halls. These also can include the underage possession or use of alcohol, and the possession or use of cannabis, or drug paraphernalia, on campus. More serious issues are not common, but we address them if they arise as well. We also hold students accountable for incidents in the Fredericksburg community. Students are encouraged to be “good neighbors” when away from campus, and to realize that arrests have consequences off and on campus.
If your student is accused of any Code of Conduct violation, they may be asked to meet with an administrator informally, or to attend a more formal conduct hearing, to determine whether or not a UMW policy was violated. Every student who is asked to attend a hearing also is invited to meet with an administrator several days prior to the hearing. During this “pre-hearing conference,” students will have an opportunity to review available documentation about the incident, to be guided through what to expect during the hearing, and to be informed about their rights in the process (the right to request and question witnesses, the right to have an advisor during the hearing, etc.) Hearings are conducted by Student Affairs administrators, or by a panel of peers elected by the student body. The focus of the conduct process is education, and respect and support are at the core of it. The process does not determine whether a student violated a law; it determines whether they violated a UMW policy.
All conduct violations are part of a student’s educational record while they remain at UMW, and usually for three years after. Students are encouraged to be aware that law schools often ask about applicants’ educational records, as do some employers, particularly if the applicant is seeking employment in a sensitive position in which security and trust might be especially important.
How can you 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. “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, only 56 percent of our students drank during the previous month. Furthermore, 27 percent of our students reported complete abstinence from alcohol. At UMW, misuse of alcohol is not the norm, and intoxication never justifies or excuses disrespectful behavior or violence.
SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has published an excellent guide called “Talking With Your College-Bound Young Adult About Alcohol.” The information in this guide also applies if your student already is attending UMW. Another resource designed for parents — one that addresses how they can help their students negotiate risks associated with college alcohol use — is available online from responsibility.org.
3) Talk to your student about marijuana. Research shows that just two brief conversations with your student can reduce marijuana use for at least a year. At UMW, in the study cited above, 67 percent of students reported never having used marijuana at all. In keeping with federal law, UMW does not allow the possession or use of marijuana on campus.
Sometimes students in urgent need of medical assistance because they overused alcohol or other drugs do not seek it because they do not want to “get in trouble.” Our “Safe Sammy” policy is intended to reduce barriers to getting help for them. Under this new policy, students generally will not face conduct sanctions from UMW as long they actively seek help for themselves, or for other students. (They still will meet with an administrator to discuss their substance use, and what the UMW community expects of them.) Please encourage your student to be a Safe Sammy!
4) Talk to your student about values. Eagles speak out against injustice and work diligently to help create a great living and learning environment for everyone. This does not require unusual skills or taking significant risks. All it requires is 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.”
5) Talk to us and trust us. We view families as allies, and together, we can create student success. Let us know if you have a conduct-related concern. (As a first step, we’ll usually recommend that we speak with your student directly.) Chances are we’ve dealt with a similar situation before, and we will bring our professionalism and experience into play to assist your student.