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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
(more on the Journal)

Winter 2008
Vol. 35 No. 1

Community, Freedom, and Commitment:
Student Discipline at Religiously-Affiliated Colleges and Universities

Christy D. Moran, James Garrison, and David Shirkey

Campus discipline has been a critical component of higher education since its inception, though the disciplinary process itself has substantially changed over time. In the colonial college era, in loco parentis was the philosophy upon which the campus discipline system was established; colleges were viewed as having the rights and duties of parents with respect to student conduct and welfare. Strict scheduling and long, detailed disciplinary codes were utilized by faculty in an effort to “shape the moral character and social manners” of their students.1 The post Civil War period brought with it a time of “disciplinary enlightenment”2 in that students were viewed more positively as young adults capable of making their own decisions. By the early 20th century, the philosophy of campus discipline became more humanistic, with an increased focus on student self-discipline and holistic development. During this time, the deans of men and women relieved faculty members of their disciplinary responsibilities. Shortly thereafter, professionally trained counselors were given more responsibility in campus discipline.3

Two major developments to campus disciplinary systems occurred in the 1960s that have influenced the nature and function of the campus discipline process today. First, the Dixon v. Alabama case,4 regarding the right of due process, changed the nature of the disciplinary process. One result of that landmark decision was that disciplinary hearing boards were established and utilized more frequently. It was also during this time that threats and actions of litigation about disciplinary processes and outcomes became increasingly salient.5

According to Dannells, three “external forces” have contributed to the current focus on campus discipline. These “forces” are: the public’s concern about campus crime, a renewed focus on accountability, and the nature of the current litigious society. 6 In spite of students having adult status, higher education institutions are now “being asked to assume a stronger role in making sure students are aware of the implications of their behavior, extending student behavior codes to govern beyond the boundaries of the campus, monitoring student personal and social activities, and letting parents know what their sons and daughters are doing.”7

Much of the existing literature about campus discipline focuses on the nature and/or function of the disciplinary processes at public institutions of higher education. For instance, Hoekema8 conducted surveys of administrators and completed a content analysis of student behavior codes at a number of prestigious public colleges and universities. He proposed three moral/ethical principles that often lay the foundation for student behavioral codes: preventing harm, upholding freedom, and fostering community. Furthermore, he proposed three stances that institutions often take in response to student behavior: restrictive, permissive, or directive. At around the same time, Allen9 surveyed 124 liberal arts students who were involved in a disciplinary program as a result of policy violations. Those students identified the most successful outcomes of their disciplinary experiences as an increased inclination to: think through their actions before acting, accept responsibility for their actions, and abide by college policies in the future. Dannells10 found that common elements and objectives of disciplinary processes at many public colleges and universities include the following: “insight; self-understanding or clarification of personal identity, attitudes, or values; self-control, responsibility, and accountability; use of ethical dialogue; and moral and ethical development.” According to the Association for Student Judicial Affairs, campus discipline systems exist to promote and to protect an academic community wherein learning is valued and encouraged and to promote citizenship education and moral and ethical development for all those involved in the process.11 Moreover, according to the Council for the Advancement of Standards, student development is also a desired outcome of participation in campus disciplinary processes.12


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