College requires disclosure of all student arrests

by Cat Boardman on September 12, 2012

This summer William and Mary President Taylor Reveley approved a policy requiring students to report any arrests within 72 hours of the incident even if the arrest occurred off campus or outside Williamsburg. If a student does not submit the online disclosure form within that time frame, the College has the right to suspend or expel the student under the Honor Code.

The policy does not require students to report arrests that occurred before the start of the undergraduate year, August 25, when students began moving onto campus. However, students must notify the school of any convictions for incidents occurring prior to the beginning of the term.
After discussing different safety precautions last year, the College decided to require arrest disclosure to increase the security of students.

“Given the circumstances of the murder of Yeardley Love at the University of Virginia, we believe it is best practice for us to be made aware of reports alleging criminal acts by our students so that we can quickly and effectively evaluate the potential impact of such behavior on our campus and address it efficiently, fairly, and effectively,” said Dave Gilbert, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct.

In addition to requesting disclosure of arrests within 72 hours, UVA requires students to affirm once per year that they have not been arrested since they were admitted to the university. The College has not included this requirement in the changes to the Student Handbook.
Previously students at the College were not required to report any arrests, although the College received regular arrest reports from the Williamsburg police. Already students have felt the impacts of the new policy.

“I feel like it needs to be less ambiguous. I got charged with underage possession and the school policy was worded in a way that I couldn’t tell whether I needed to report it,” says one student who wished to remain anonymous, “I went ahead and contacted the Dean’s office because I didn’t want to get an honor code violation, but afterwards my lawyer told me that in fact, I didn’t need to report it.”

After a disclosure is filed, Dean Gilbert reviews it and decides if the incident creates concern for the College. After requesting authority from Dean of Students Patricia Volp, the arrest is then addressed through the Code of Conduct process. If, in accordance with the factors stated in the Student Handbook, the incident is deemed not to be of concern, a student’s disclosure may either simply be filed in their student record or be discussed by the student and a staff member.

The College decided to ask students to report arrests in addition to just convictions in order to ensure timely reactions to incidents and to make certain repercussions follow college procedure rather than the laws’.

“The College has its own unique standards of behavior and means for resolving violations that do not always parallel those of the law, so the outcome of a court case may not necessarily resolve whether the College’s policies have been violated,” said Dean Gilbert.

The policy comes as one of six changes to the Student Handbook. Other changes include the amendment of the College’s Amnesty Policy and the GPA requirement for the Student Conduct Council.

Vice President for Student Affairs, Ginger Ambler, said of the Handbook change, “Because personal safety is such a compelling issue on college campuses and in our society as a whole, we hope students will see this policy as yet another measure for promoting the safest possible environment for all in our community.”

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