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Armstrong comments 04 28-14-1

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Armstrong State U.

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Armstrong comments 04 28-14-1

  1. 1. Jeffrey Powell is a candidate for the Assistant Dean for Student Integrity. He currently works at the University of North Dakota. He has two decades of student affairs experience, focused heavily in student crisis response, student discipline response, and residence life and housing. He has held appointments as an academic advisor, worked in academic deans’ offices, and was a part of the University’s accreditation central committee. In addition to student affairs work, he holds an appointment as an Adjunct Faculty and is a member of the graduate faculty. He’s happy to be here because it is raining at home in Grand Forks and the projected high is 46°today. And he’s happy to be a candidate for this position.
  2. 2. Five things I was given two of the terms I will use later; they came in the question I was asked to answer in advance of our time together. Literally, the question was to address the work I will do when I hold the Assistant Dean position – how will I promote the formation of community, a community that is built on integrity and respect. I did what we teach students to do in rhetoric class – I deconstructed the question, and examined the meaning of the words involved. Or in this case, the meanings – plural, at least of the key word here, “integrity.” I assume “integrity” was chosen because this will be the office that responds to situations where a student has violated the rules or the principles of
  3. 3. academic conduct. When a person is outside of the values system, they are said to lack integrity. There is a standard we expect of our community members. My youngest daughter is in grammar school, still. Their three word code is “Safe, Respect, and Responsible,” which - initially - frustrates the grammarian in me. They operationalize the system such that when she is “written up,” or when we have a parent-teacher conference, her behavior is reflected against these basic expectations then referred to as “above the line” or “below the line.” Such an evaluation is – in Supreme Court terms – “overbroad,” which means it’s largely undefined. Responding to “under the line” behavior requires or demands – it is predicated on - a subjective definition. I trust that in this role, you will trust me, and require of me, to make sometimes subjective decisions about whether
  4. 4. someone’s behavior is “above the line” or “below the line.” I have met with thousands – that is not hyperbole – thousands of students because they violated rules, observed someone violating the rules, or were injured by someone violating the rules. In nearly every meeting with students related to the filing of a complaint, follow up to a crisis response, or addressing a behavioral concern, citation or documentation, or announcing an investigation – in nearly every meeting, I will describe to a student that my agenda for today is “safety, your success as a student, and your growth as a person.” Something we did in our Dean of Students Office, beginning about five years ago, was to begin having more purposeful conversations with our students about the possible chasm between their actions and their sense of their own value system. I would like to say I put this into place. I presented some compelling information – information and presentations you might
  5. 5. have found in a search of my internet footprint. To be clear, not every student believes their action to be a violation of their own value system. But many do. College is a time in our lives and in our society where some exploration of personal boundaries is to be expected. The foundational work of Lawrence Kohlberg – about whom every student affairs-y person learns during a masters program, reminds us that our self-exploration of our personhood sometimes requires us to question our relationship with the values and authority present in the culture. To help a student develop her own sense of “integrity,” I get to be in my daily work life, a “mirror” for the student to observe what I observe. The development of integrity in the micro-unit life of our students occurs one-student-at-a-time, and it occurs not because of the authority the office has, but because of the ability we might have to cause the student to self-reflect on his or her reported behavior,
  6. 6. and to evaluate this behavior in light of his or her own self-interest and self-identity. This work is a blessing, and it requires someone special doing this work. I frequently hear from friends or colleagues that they “don’t understand how” I can do the kind of work that student conduct expects, and I know that there are some special hardwired characteristics one must have. I’m pretty calm, I don’t get flustered, I read people well and quickly, and I’m flexible. I seldom experience “the same meeting” twice with students, even in those situations when the fact case walking in the door looks a lot like the last case I had. Being in the right state of mind is important, I suspect. Being intent to help and be perceived as helpful to the student with whom I’m meeting is also important. There is a cornerstone-of-the-profession psychotherapist who was named Carl
  7. 7. Rogers, who promulgated a theory that asserts the following:  human beings have an innate urge towards socially constructive behavior which is always present and always functioning at some level.  each person has a need for self-determination; and  the more a person’s need for self-determination is respected, the more likely their innate urge to be socially constructive will take hold.  personal growth occurs through nurturing environments at home, school, workplace and the therapy room. This theory, called Unconditional Positive Regard, can be operationalized by valuing the person – in this case, the accused student – as doing their best to move
  8. 8. forward in their lives constructively. It is imperative that when a meeting occurs between me and any student, I diligently respect the person’s right to self-determination of their actions. We control no one. No matter what they choose to do, under UPR, it is the student who is in control. What the student needs to know if uncivil or unsafe behavior will face consequences. Actions that are outside of our accepted standards of behaviors must be confronted. It doesn’t make the person bad, but their actions are not congruent with our values. But, outside of action that is clearly dangerous or clearly delineated as non-scholarly or non-conducive to the educational mission of Armstrong, it is not mine to judge. It is the student’s to judge for herself. I suspect the primary motivation to select “integrity” in this job title was about holding students accountable to the
  9. 9. expected behavior, and draw and exude judgment and guidance in those moments where a student’s behavior did not have integrity. The second definition, of course, of integrity is the one that engineers and chemists and architects and physicists give to structures – naturally or organically existing or designed and built. I will buy someone a mint julep for the Derby this Saturday if they can – with a straight face – tell me that when the title “Assistant Dean for Student Integrity” was selected, those responsible purposely chose the word “Integrity” because it refers to two different ways of looking at what a student and an institution need to do. Stable, indestructible structures have “integrity,” and vulnerable structures lack integrity. Bridges that don’t fall down and boats that float correctly have integrity.
  10. 10. If there is anything I have learned in twenty years of student affairs work, it is this: students who need help find ways of telling us they need help. Not all of them come in the same door or tell the story the same way, but they show up. And few of them acknowledge they are “here” for help, but if we’re looking, if we’re asking the right set of questions, we can act. The at risk students are walking in our door. This is an exciting time for the institution. As you likely know from my resume, we recently completed our ten-year accreditation self-study for the institution. There were thirteen central committee members preparing the chapters (small groups) and editing the document enmasse. Twelve members are tenured faculty, representing six of our eight degree-granting colleges, with me being the thirteenth. I ask you to take notice that I have gained the confidence and developed relationships with the faculty at the University. I believe I will have similar
  11. 11. success in earning the confidence of faculty members at Armstrong, and important aspect of the Student Integrity role, as I understand it. I currently work at a school that is trying and nearing a move from the Carnegie classification tier II level to the tier I level. To that end, we keep our eye on certain statistics, and one of the publicly available and required-by-the-feds numbers is our 6- year graduate rate. There is a formula for this metric. Incidentally, there is no one who works in education who thinks the formula properly assesses the situation. In calculating the ratio, you collect a full-time, first-time freshmen cohort, and then query the matriculating and graduating students in the numerator, against the original cohort in the denominator, at the (three, four, five, and) six-year mark(s). If a student transfers away and still succeeds, more likely than not it still “counts against” their first school. If a student transfers here and graduates, we
  12. 12. don’t get credit for their success. If a student takes seven years to graduate, they either “don’t count” or count against us in the ratio. It’s a tragically flawed ratio, but the fact that all schools use the same flawed formulate nonetheless provides a common way for us to look at schools. At UND that number is 54%. A few years ago, I worked with someone in Institutional Research to explore our number with this caveat – did the student have “a discipline record?” (vamp here) The graduate rate for this group was 42%. Why a 12-point drop? Should we believe this group is 25% less likely than the gen pop to graduate? (vamp): beer/sigma nu? minor/sports event? or it is a student “showing up on our door step” and we have the chance to throw more attention upon them.
  13. 13. If we are going to have integrity – systemic integrity – we need to figure out where the boat is leaking. And one of the places where my experience tells me at-risk student gravitate is the Student Integrity office. I was asked to talk about “respect,” and I think I have already shown my cards. No one among us does our best when we are being chastened, when we are taken to the wood-shed. It’s not how I operate. My kids would describe my job in the Dean of Students Office as being about kicking students out of school when they break the rules, and that is a part of that job. I have assembled, though, a collection of students who more often than not, arrived at my location because of a misbehavior incident, but they found a person to whom they could connect, from whom they learned about resources. I have challenged students to “do better,” to focus on their goals. If college is important to these students, their behavior will tell us it is
  14. 14. important. If it’s unimportant, they will tell us that, too. Just as I have students who have come to rely on me as it relates to their navigation of the university and their academic programs – in conjunction, always, with their academic advisor – I could produce a list of faculty and academic management people who will tell you I fully support an academic record that is accurate, that has integrity. The Dean of Students Office is the gatekeeper for the mechanism on our campus for a student to late-drop or after-the- semester to drop a class, for medical or exigent circumstances. I would assert that the Registrar at UND will tell the person who calls for a reference that I am cautious with this responsibly. Protecting the institution is an important part of the work we do, and “feeling sorry” for a student who simply didn’t do the work is poor professionalism. There is a subjective decision made – was this a circumstance in which the student couldn’t perform the
  15. 15. work, or did they find a plausible excuse after they didn’t perform? How do I respect this person and manage the integrity of the record? Such questions are constantly present. I pretty commonly say I would never want to be remembered for the worst moment I’ve had in my life, or for doing the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. Having set up that premise, the overwhelming number of students I have met in the last decade, I’ve met because they have violated our Code of Student Life, or because they are experiencing a terrible situation and require action, aid, or guidance from the University. To treat the sensitive information I have with anything other than respect is irresponsible and unredeemable. Respect is an important part of this work. I have met with students who did not feel respected by other students or by staff
  16. 16. members. These students have indicated that a comment about their race or heritage was made, one that felt to the student to be discriminatory or demeaning. And I have investigated and addressed these situations. I have met with students when they need help navigating intimate portions of their lives. I have issued temporary “No Contact Directives” to people ending a dating relationship or people in stalker-suspected situations. It is not a place where “polite distance” can be kept. But such action is for the safety of the student and is the responsibility of the school. I have met with students who have made a sexual misconduct allegation, or against whom such an allegation has been made. I have worked with the student in the presence of a counselor, their attorney, someone from our campus women’s center or from the county Community Violence Intervention Center. I have sat with
  17. 17. students at the courthouse while they wait for an Order of Protection. I’ve displayed respect in this situations – I have been what I needed to be: to be empathetic, to be supportive, to refer the student to personal support structures and reflect back that the person is more than the situation in which they find themselves. Such perspective and behavior on my part is respect. And I have met with students who wished to file complaints of mistreatment or grieve the grades received from faculty. My role is this is almost always to refer – in our campus environment, academic issues are college-driven and my direct involvement frustrates, not helps move, the appropriate processes. I am, however, a trusted and knowledgeable colleague who knows to whom and in what fashion to make such a referral for grievance protocols. In this regard, one does the work without regard to the personalities involved. Kind but honest referrals into the
  18. 18. established protocols represent the only way our students will feel they were treated fairly. Respect is thus demonstrated – respect for the student, their rights, and their ability to enter into grievance protocols Additionally, respect is taught – talked about, presented to students in sanctioning scenarios following judicial case resolution. I will constantly think of to help students develop a sense of respect for themselves and for the community and its members. But mostly, respect is reflected in life – in this case, my life and my work-interactions, and through the rolemodeling of respect, it will be furthered by the students with whom I meet. How? [Slideshow – levels of relationship – concentric circles.]
  19. 19. In coloring or categorizing these colleagues, I may have missed on some of these [acknowledge probability there are some campus specific elements I could not have known].  Housing staff and “my boss” are daily-involved relationships. Common expectations, common use of Code and sanctioning guidelines, conversations about variation for educational purposes. Trust, deference, and student-centered.  Slightly different in terms of level of contact or influence, but no less important o police o counseling center o greek life o key faculty members
  20. 20.  Next level is a slew of outside-of-student- affairs staff with whom need to develop relationship; for whom I need to demonstrate a reason to trust me.  In the same level, but approached differently because the way we interface is different, are student affairs colleagues.  Kind of the last level in the concentric circles model are students who walk in, parents who call or walk in, or info from other colleges or from law enforcement other than campus or Savannah police. I’m mindful of a stalking situation I received from a private college approx. an hour away from UND, in which I responded by calling the student, doing the No Contract Directive letter and starting an investigation. I’m mindful of our times the FBI has shown up for a computer-crime situation, or our drugs
  21. 21. task force for a drug-trafficking situation. Actually, the people in this orbit – well, the concentric circles model breaks down. Protecting the safety of the students and employees of the institution make this a part of the job. Although it’s “pluto” in this model I’m visualizing, it’s more like Hale-Bopp or Halley’s comet – it’s out there but when it’s close, you pay attention to it. In addition to “students in trouble,” and again, most of these are non-safety related opportunities to reflect to the student our expectations and their own values systems, provide some education and guidance, and they will “be fine.” But sometimes the work we do is either crisis-related or involves a vulnerable student. I have been at the ER and I have coached by phone during countless situations in the middle of the night, involving a student expressing suicide ideation. I have responded to
  22. 22. alcohol overdose and drug overdose situations, medical situations, and victims of assault. I have served as a central part of our “crisis coordination team,” or recently rebranded “care team.” Getting help for the student immediately and providing required aftercare expresses integrity, respect for the person, promotes safety, promotes student success, and encourages human, personal growth. I have been at table, and at times have convened and led, conversations about students whose behavior is alarming, concerning, disruptive, disturbed or disturbing – all sorts of descriptors. Although “we” have a playbook for much of this, every case is different. The Five Things all fit here – integrity and respect; safety, student success, and personal growth. And a sixth thing: relationships. The relationships I described in previous slides,
  23. 23. the relationship that I have with the institution and with its values. Finally, these six things are in the Armstrong mission statement. Let’s take a look at the values of the University and the priorities I have described. This position is a central part of the services we offer, and the required skills for success in this position are skills I have developed in my professional life. Thank you for your time.

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