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Judicial Affairs Officials Brief Freshmen on Code

September 28, 2010
By Brendan McNally and Emily Battaglia

Penn State freshmen gathered in the HUB-Robeson Center auditorium Monday night to learn about the Office of Judicial Affairs’ Code of Conduct — and some said they were surprised by what they learned.

Assistant Director of the Office of Judicial Affairs (OJA) Gary Miller led an hour-long presentation covering some of the most common violations of the university’s Code of Conduct — a set of rules that Miller said students are expected to follow both on and off-campus.

Miller, who spoke to a crowd of about 40, said that academic integrity problems, copyright violations, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, and harassment are some of the most common violations his office deals with.

Although one of the meeting’s attendees, Zach Dobson, said most of the rules are fairly self-explanatory, he was surprised that students could be held accountable for their actions off-campus. About half the violations that OJA deals with occur off-campus, Miller said.

“I mean, it’s necessary,” Dobson (freshman-chemistry) said. “But I’d rather it not be like that.”

Miller said one of the most prevalent issues OJA handles is drug and alcohol violations.

The average age of a patient at Mount Nittany Medical Center on weekends is 19, and the average blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of patients brought in for alcohol-related incidents is 0.24 — statistics that Miller said indicate some students are participating in dangerous drinking.

This year, Penn State students that are caught drinking underage will have to participate in the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) program, which will cost students $200 to complete, Miller said. Students will also have to pay any fines that the Pennsylvania Judicial System may impose, Miller said.

Miller said that many students do not know what the university considers academic integrity and plagiarism.

Kayla DeVore (freshman- premedecine) said she was surprised to find out that students can get in trouble for resubmitting a paper that has already been submitted for a grade in another class.

“I had no idea,” DeVore said. “I’ve saved a lot of my papers — not that I’ve resubmitted them.”

Miller said that learning the university’s rules can help clarify what faculty expect from students and might make students think twice before violating the rules.

“The Code of Conduct helps to create the kind of community we’re trying to build here,” Miller said.