Muhlenberg’s Code of Conduct is a disciplinary outline covering every offense from theft to physical violence, and at 24 pages long, the document is both detailed and expansive.
Last April, The Office of Judicial Affairs made a variety of changes to the document, the goal being to simplify the language so that, as Assistant Dean of Students and Judicial Officer Jane Schubert explains, “it now reads less legalistic in terms our students can easily embrace.”
In order to understand what Muhlenberg students wanted from the Code, four focus groups were gathered to discuss the topics of “alcohol, drugs, property, community and interpersonal relationships.”
“Select members from the following groups were invited to participate: students involved in athletics or fraternity/sorority life, students that have gone through the judicial process that have had both positive and less than positive experiences, two students from each class year, [and] faculty and staff members,” said Dean Schubert, describing the four focus groups. The variation in the focus groups reflect the diversity and “community focused language” that Dean Schubert sought to achieve in the new Code of Conduct.
One of the main changes made to the document is the name of the Code itself. Until last year, the document was named the “Social Code” while it is now called the “Student Code of Conduct.”
“The new language was changed to reflect the College’s expectations of community members which are Care for Self, Care for Others, Care for Property and Care for Community” explains Dean Schubert.
“The new language was changed to reflect the College’s expectations of community members which are Care for Self, Care for Others, Care for Property, and Care for Community”
The second major change made was the insertion of these “Care” terms into the document to introduce lists of “possible violations” that could occur. For example, under “Care for Others” is listed “Physical Violence,” “Harassment,” “Hazing” and “Weapons.” The terms beginning with “care” replace the terms “Offenses Against Persons,” “Offenses Against Property” and “Offenses Against the Community” from the old code.
The change in language from “offenses” to “care” seems to be the administration’s effort to make the language of the Code more positive and less “legalistic.” This wording change was prompted by the observation of an outside consultant, Chris Mulvihill from CJM Consulting, who was impressed by the amount of times he heard the word “care” used in the focus group.
“People at Muhlenberg really care about each other and the community they live in,” noted Mulvihill.
While no actual content in the document was changed, the new language reflects the current values that Muhlenberg is striving to promote, as well as the changing values of society today. These changes are illustrated by the differences between the first paragraphs of the old and new Code.
In the old “Social Code” the document begins with the sentences, “College students are in the midst of making the final transition from adolescence to adulthood. They are striving for independence, hoping to prove to themselves and to others that they are capable of making good decisions and directing their own lives.”
This portrayal of college students is in contrast with the new document, which starts off with the sentences, “Muhlenberg College is committed to the health, safety and success of all students. In addition, the College believes that diversity, in many forms and expressions, is essential to its educational mission and to its success as a community. Achieving our educational mission requires that we foster a campus environment that is safe and inclusive and allows for students to maximize their academic and personal potential.”
The new focus on “diversity” and “inclusivity” displays a much different point of view than the older view of college students displayed in the old document.
The new changes to the Code are an important stepping stone for improving communication and understanding between students and administrators and for creating a college community that is both responsive and ethical; as Dean Schubert puts it, “focusing on the growth and development of the individual student, encouraging self-discipline and fostering a sense of respect for the rights of others.”