Perspectives: An Ethical Exploration: Violations of the Law and Differential Treatment Between College Students and Non-Students

Perspectives: An Ethical Exploration: Violations of the Law and Differential Treatment Between College Students and Non-Students

Nicholas A. Clegorne
Louisiana State University
Jonathon M. Hyde
Louisiana State University
Rony Die
Louisiana State University

A focus on students is the hallmark of the student affairs profession. However, an ethical dilemma emerges when one considers if our treatment of students is inadvertently unfair to non-students. Do institutions of higher education inadvertently privilege the students they serve when those students violate the law? Is it fair that non-students are processed through the criminal justice system for the same offense treated as learning opportunities for students? Could the criminal justice system learn something from the developmental approaches often taken by colleges and universities?

These questions and others are explored by the authors in this examination of fairness and differential treatment in our society. First, we pose two case studies and a typology we hope will illustrate examples of fairness and differential treatment between student and non-student populations. Second, we discuss the ways these cases compare and contrast to adjudication practices outside of the university.  Finally, we pose questions that may prove helpful in illuminating this complex ethical issue. While there are no definitive solutions, discussion generated from this column could lead to increased interest in the topic, new directions for research, and hopefully a greater understanding of the complexities involved. We hope this column can be a catalyst for further exploration, discussion, and understanding regarding institutional practices and the choices we make as a society regarding how we treat alleged student and non-student offenders.

Case Studies

In order to examine the differential treatment between college students and non-students, hypothetical scenarios are described next. While an express purpose is to present a well thought out explanation of the potential consequences for the involved individuals (Non-student A and Student B), it is important to note there are other variables not discussed here that may affect the outcome. Indeed, it is more likely that the illustrated scenarios represent several points along a continuum of potential responses. In other words, while we present a completely developmental strategy on one hand and a punitive approach on the other, there are many options in between.

Illicit marijuana use was selected for these scenarios because this was a common offense at the institutions familiar to the authors. In order to better allow one to compare the two case studies, we assume all identity-based characteristics of the students are equal, other than their college enrollment status. Conversations with local police confirmed that similar instances were handled quite differently off campus than on campus. Confusing the issue further, some federal and state laws conflict regarding the illegality of marijuana use. Additionally, there is much evidence to suggest that age, race, and socioeconomic status all can, and often do, play a part in determining the nature and severity of consequences for legal infractions regardless of student status (Lynch, Patterson, & Childs, 2008; Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). The complexity suggests it is difficult to state whether such behavior is illegal all of the time in every place (“Federal Marijuana Law,” n.d.). Even so, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811) suggests that illicit marijuana use is typically against the law in most regions of the United States. Rather than becoming bogged down in the specifics of this particular crime, we hope the reader will view illicit marijuana use as a vehicle for discussion. One might substitute theft or stalking for marijuana and convene a similar discussion.

Case study 1: Non-student A 

Non-student A is a high school graduate, but is not enrolled in college. Non-student A is smoking marijuana alone in his private residence when a neighbor or passer-by smells the odor and calls the police. As is typical from the authors’ experience, when police arrive they confirm the smell and decide to investigate.  Shortly thereafter Non-student A hears loud banging on the front door followed by, “Open up! This is the police!” shouted from outside. Non-student A delays complying with the request because he is attempting to hide the evidence of his marijuana use. He eventually allows the officer to enter and search the domicile. The officer smells the strong smell of marijuana and notices a pipe and a plastic bag of what appears to be marijuana sitting in a box on the kitchen counter.

Case study 2: Student B 

Student B is also a high school graduate but unlike Non-student A is enrolled in a four-year college. Student B lives in a residence hall on campus, in a room shared with one roommate. Student B is alone in his room on campus, smoking marijuana, when he hears a knock on the door, and his resident assistant says, “This is your RA, I need you to open the door.” Student B delays complying with the request because he is attempting to hide the evidence of his marijuana use.  He eventually allows the resident assistant to enter. Inside the room, the resident assistant notices the strong smell of marijuana, a pipe, and plastic bag of what appears to be marijuana sticking out of a messenger bag on the coffee table.

A Typology of Potential Outcomes

First, an examination of the potential outcomes of Student B’s situation is warranted. As a student at a four-year college, Student B could potentially be facing a wide variety of consequences for his actions. It has been the authors’ experience, through roles as student affairs professionals at eight different postsecondary institutions that university responses can vary dramatically. Three types of university responses to these cases will be described. The responses presented below are not meant to be a comprehensive list but should be seen as guideposts along a spectrum of potential responses.

Type 1: No campus police involvement 

In the first type of institution the situation is handled within the confines of the university, and campus police are typically not called to the residence in the first place. In a Type 1 institution, the resident assistant calls a professional staff member who comes to Student B’s residence. The professional staff member documents the situation, and the marijuana and paraphernalia may or may not be destroyed. The professional staff member then attempts to provide resources and support to Student B. In lieu of accountability measures, resources and guidance are directed to Student B in an attempt to increase the student’s knowledge of the potential consequences of drug use. Additionally, information is provided to promote the student’s welfare and success. In a Type 1 institution, there are no academic or judicial implications for Student B, and his criminal record is not affected.

Type 2: Campus-based educational adjudication

At type 2 institutions, the campus police are notified, confiscate the marijuana and pipe, and dispose of them. The campus police ask the resident assistant to document the situation, but no criminal arrest is made. Student B then progresses through the institution’s conduct system, which typically involves educational sanctions that seek to ensure the safety of the community and engage the student in a developmental process. In a Type 2 institution, an administrator may or may not record the incident and resolution in Student B’s university conduct record.The student’s criminal record is not affected.

Type 3: Criminal arrest 

Finally, at type 3 institutions, the campus police are notified, confiscate the marijuana and pipe, and process them as evidence of a crime. The campus police make a report of the situation and either issue Student B a summons or arrest him or her. The resident assistant also documents the situation and directs it through the student conduct process. In a type 3 institution, Student B’s criminal record is almost certainly affected. This incident may also be recorded in the university conduct record, depending on the student conduct response.

Now that the potential responses to Student B’s situation have been presented, one may take a closer look at what will most likely happen to Non-student A. Non-student A may face a range of consequences including being arrested and processed through the criminal justice system.

Discussion and Conclusion

Having described the potential consequences for marijuana offenses facing both Non-student A and Student B, the focus turns to the potential ethical dilemma created by this set of responses. The authors believe that institutions rooted in developmental practice are important for not only the development of individual students but also U.S. culture and society. When conduct policies designed to encourage better decision-making are successful it is likely that both the individual and society benefit. Another perspective is to consider whether such a difference in procedure is fair to our students and non-student counterparts.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a double standard as “a set of principles that applies differently and usually more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another” (“Double Standard”, n.d.).  With his in mind one may question whether a double standard is created when, intentionally or not, students enjoy varying degrees of greater support and differential treatment than their non-student counterparts.

Questioning the differential treatment of students and non-students is not meant as an indictment of developmental student conduct practices. To the contrary, the authors completely support the concept of developmental conduct processes within the university but cannot ignore that this attitude is less prominent outside the university. In short, if college is about preparing students for a real world, where developmental adjudication strategies are in short supply (Natarajan, 2010), is it ethical to prime students in a culture that is counter to the real world?

Student affairs professionals seeking to develop students may be inclined to suggest the university’s developmental approach to student accountability is superior to that of society at large. While the authors agree with such an assertion, it is beside the point for this discussion. The question is not whether judicial systems outside of the university are overly prescriptive and intolerant. Neither is the question whether the university system is fairer or more just when viewed in a vacuum. In general the authors feel the real question is whether both systems, existing simultaneously, present an ethical conundrum for state and university officials.

Is such a model ethical and fair? Some would ask why college students, who already represent a privileged population, should get a second chance when other community members (non-student) their age might not. Furthermore, is it possible the university purpose and funding regarding behavioral response compared to that of U.S. society generates a system which is unfair to those inside and outside of the academy? With regards to this last question, the authors invite discussion on the ethics surrounding beginning a college student’s adult life with added protection of a developmental process only to release the student into a world where such luxuries are less available. Additionally, we raise the question about absence of a developmental process for non-students.

One natural suggestion of student affairs practitioners is that colleges might collaborate with federal, state and local municipalities in order to bring societal solutions external to the university more in line with practices within the academy. Indeed, universities, particularly flagship and land grant institutions, do have an expressed responsibility to contribute to the community outside of their own gates, but practitioners must be careful not to overstep in such roles. While the authors believe such cooperation to be integral to the expressed concerns highlighted in this piece, it is potentially problematic to assume that the local citizens (more specifically voters) in the community near an institution support developmental sanctions to the same extent of student affairs practitioners. There is evidence to suggest this distrust of development within the rehabilitation movement in the American prison system (Natarajan, 2010). Perhaps better outreach programs from universities could help to mitigate this obstacle.

Harry Dammer, in an edited volume by Mangai Natarajan (2010), described the sentiment of the American populous regarding prisons. In short, prisons in the early 20th century were cruel institutions reminiscent of dungeons. These were replaced by a system that purportedly sought to educate and rehabilitate through a number of psychological, physical, and career-based applications. However, by the 1970s the American public clamored for a more punitive model, and politicians and policy makers complied. While public opinion may or may not have changed since the 1970s, “the call for increasing severity of sentences has been driven by ‘penal populism’, a term used to describe crime policies that are formed by politicians in their attempt to appease the public and their call for punitiveness” (Naterajan, 2010, p. 93).  Pratt (2007) claimed this phenomenon is still true. Pratt also suggested the control and drive of politicians to keep the system punitive is real regardless of whether they understand or have adequately questioned the opinions of their constituents.

In contrast, universities typically seek to create teachable moments out of student conduct violations. Generally, only the most egregious acts result in suspension or expulsion, which are the greatest sanctions available to an institution. This seems trite compared to the possibility of incarceration. Certainly, students can suffer heavier legal punishments, but in the authors’ experience, many times (as in types 1, 2 described above and the spectrum in between) the university is able to choose whether to report the crime or handle it internally. Here it is important to remember there are a spectrum of responses. Based on experience, some universities are heavily dependent on a community standard approach, which often avoids legal action while, on the opposite end to the continuum, others use police almost exclusively to approach behavioral response. We find that most institutions fall somewhere in between. In most cases some form of probation or educational sanction supported by a number of student affairs practitioners and/or faculty is devised to help the student learn from their mistakes and succeed in the long run. On the other hand the notion of rehabilitation often seems like the punch line of a bad joke in the criminal justice system. At best, most people describe criminal sentences as “repaying one’s debt to society.”

Comparing campus judicial proceedings with criminal adjudication we can see a difference in ideology. The university seeks to invest in the individual, and conversely, society seeks to punish the guilty party. Based on conversations with many experienced student conduct administrators within different states and institution types, we found some agreement that if local, state, and federal governments had the resources to provide services similar to those offered in the universities to convicted criminals that such a system could be very good for society. Conduct administrators also discussed with us that such a system is difficult to attain. The modern American democracy, a servant of the American voter and taxpayer, would require immense resources to support this type of system. Not only would many more hours of work be required becoming costly, but the American public would have to support the perspective that the criminal justice system should be about rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. Given the prevailing concept of penal populism (Natarajan, 2010), a shift to a developmental approach seems unlikely.

Scholars and researchers in the area of criminal justice agree that the courts, police, and prisons are overtaxed (Goldkamp & Vîlcicã, 2009; Lurigio & Snowden, 2009; Scott, 2009; Worden & Davies, 2009). Furthermore, at every university familiar to the authors, this greatly overloaded criminal justice system is often happy to allow universities to take care of their own offenders for two reasons. First, in a system where there are impossibly long courtroom dockets, too few police on the streets, and too many convicted individuals in the prison system, the criminal justice system seems thankful part of the load to be taken by other organizations. Second, we can see where some might argue if society cannot offer the same treatment to everyone, at least each person who can be rehabilitated or developed through university conduct processes is a victory. The combined effect is that a system is created where the academy is allowed to sanction along completely different guidelines than the criminal justice system.

Here the authors will briefly describe some thoughts in the direction of potential solutions, which we hope will lead discussion towards greater problem-solving efforts. Specific attention is needed to both research and outreach. First, studies which examine the effects of university conduct procedures on students after college may allow student affairs practitioners to better acknowledge whether there is merit to the concerns regarding transition to life after college.  Further inquiry into transfer of the desired outcomes of the development process may provide greater support for contemporary strategies or prompt reform. Second, outreach to municipal legal and penal systems has the potential for two-fold success. On one hand the developmental approach used in colleges and universities might better help prevent and/or lessen crime while also helping to rehabilitate offenders. On the other hand, face-to-face interactions with crime outside academe could establish new ways of thinking in university conduct processes.

The ethical dilemma is with the existence of two environments that are separate yet operating side by side. The first favors development along a continuum exemplified by university conduct processes varying greatly in application. The second seems more focused on punishment as a result of perceived public opinion. The long-term solution to relieving the tension in this dilemma would be to bring each of the systems more in line with each other to remove the possibility of the double standard expressed above. Ideally a change in governmental policy to come more in line with developmental methods seems more appropriate. The optimism of the authors leads us believe great strides can be made to this end, but our shared pessimism has us considering how changing complex and politically charged issues will be a long and arduous process. The authors have suggested further research and outreach is needed to accomplish real strides towards bringing university and societal systems in-line. With this in mind we suggest that a short-term analysis also take place. While the authors fully support greater efforts at research and practice in the former long-term solution, we believe a short-term solution such as collaborations between student affairs conduct officers and local judicial servants resulting in an increased communication would be helpful in bringing awareness to this issue..

Discussion Questions

  • Regarding a developmental approach versus a more punitive style, which system is more appropriate given the realities of our world?
  • Can the student conduct and criminal systems work together?
  • Can either community (the university or society) trade their system for or merge their system with the other?
  • There are compelling reasons why the academy handles conduct in the manners it chooses, but is this ethical in light of the greater expectations of the municipality. If not, what should be done?
  • Where does your institution fall on the spectrum of typology presented?
  • What are the implications of where your institution is on the spectrum?
  • Do contemporary practices in student conduct on your campus appropriately correct behavior before students exit the institution, or do they simply provide a false expectation of leniency to privileged students?  What evidence do you have to support your claim(s)?
  • How could student affairs professionals reconcile any differences that may exist between  personal philosophies regarding conduct and that of your university regarding this type of situation?



Double Standard. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved from…

Federal marijuana law. (n.d.). [Americans for Safe Access web site]. Retrieved from http://www.safeaccessnow. org/article.php?id=2638

Goldkamp, J. S., & Vîlcicã., E. R. (2009). Judicial discretion and the unfinished agenda of American bail reform: Lessons from Philadelphia’s evidence-based judicial strategy. In A. Sarat (Ed.), Special issue: New perspectives on crime and criminal justice (pp. 115-157). [Special issue].Studies in Law, Politics and Society, 47.

Lurigio, A. J., & Snowden, J. (2009). Putting therapeutic jurisprudence into practice: The growth, operations, and effectiveness of mental health court. Justice System Journal, 30, 196.

Lynch, M. J., Patterson, E. B., & Childs, K. K. (Eds.). (2008). Racial divide: Racial and ethnic bias in the criminal justice system. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

Natarajan, M (Ed.). (2010). International Crime and Justice. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Neubauer, D.W. &, Fradella, H.F. (2011). America’s courts and the criminal justice system.

Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Pratt, J. (2007. Penal populism. New York, NY: Routeledge

Scott, M. S. (2009), Progress in American policing? Reviewing the national reviews. Law & Social Inquiry, 34, 169–185.

Worden, A. P., & Davies, A. L. B. (2009). Protecting due process in a punitive era: Analysis of changes in providing counsel to the poor. Special issue: New perspectives on crime and criminal justice (pp. 71–113). [Special issue]. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, 47.

About the Authors

Nicholas A. Clegorne is an Assistant Director in the Louisiana State University (LSU) Department of Residential Life and a Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Leadership Research and Counseling (Higher Education Administration) at LSU.

Jonathon Hyde is the Associate Director for Residence Education and interim Director of the Center for Academic Success at LSU.

Rony Die is a Residence Life Coordinator in the Department of Residential Life at LSU.

Please send inquiries to Nicholas A. Clegorne  [email protected] 

The opinions expressed by Developments author(s) are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members, Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

The Educational Dynamics of the Transfer Dilemma

The Educational Dynamics of the Transfer Dilemma

Paulette Brower-Garrett
College of Staten Island/CUNY

Transfer students are increasingly becoming a major constituent group within higher education institutions. Institutional leaders at both two- and four-year colleges rely heavily on transfer students for revenue, additional classroom perspectives, and positive contribution they make to an institution’s profile. The high percentage of transfer students may be surprising. Ewell, Schild, and Paulson (2003, p. 2) reported, “More than half of the students who ultimately earn bachelor’s degrees enroll in two or more institutions, and almost a fifth attend three or more.” These students often incur additional educational expenses because they frequently lose credits through the transfer process. Consequently, both transfer students and institutional funding sources have begun to apply pressure on institutional governing boards to finally rectify the persistent dilemma of transfer credit articulations. This concern continues to be reaffirmed as exhibited by the most recent statement from the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education (2011a):

Overall completion rates among students who lose significant credits in the transfer process are low, and it is not difficult to see why. Students are often required to enroll again in courses they have already taken, incurring significant costs in terms of tuition and time. In the absence of effective statewide policies, the burden of negotiating transfer, often between large, complex institutions, falls primarily on students seeking to transfer. Additionally, the costs of inefficiencies in the transfer process (e.g., credits not transferable; excessive credits taken after transfer because community college credits are not applied to degree requirements) are borne by students and states. (p. 5)

To compound transfer issues further, pressure on institutional governing boards has begun forcing faculty (more than other groups) to wrestle with some deeply divisive attitudes towards transfer students that have become systematized over the last 50 years. In fact, Cejda (1997) suggested that faculty members and administrators at four-year institutions might view students transferring from community colleges as academically suspect and lacking academic rigor. Whether these attitudes are perceived as correct or incorrect, this tension of negative attitudes towards transfer students and increased reliance on transfer students has unavoidably created an upsurge of intense debates surrounding the educational roles and responsibilities of two- and four-year colleges in higher educational institutions. In an attempt to provide a framework for understanding this progressively evolving complex dilemma, this article will examine its evolution by first identifying its scope, next addressing its history, then by looking at its current concerns and finally by highlighting some of its needed resolutions.

Transfer Student Proliferation: National Study

According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), college transfer is the movement of students from one college, university, or other educational provider to another. It is the process by which credits representing educational experiences, courses, degrees, or credentials are accepted or not accepted by a receiving institution (CHEA, 2000). Nationally, many students transfer out of the first institution they initially attend. In fact, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES, 2011) 2003-2004 study of four million first-time undergraduate postsecondary students, roughly 1.3 million (approximately 32%) of them transferred, and 40% of transferring students moved between one or more colleges throughout their careers. Nationally, 18% of undergraduates transfer from the first institution at which they enrolled within three years of beginning their postsecondary education (Berkner & Choy, 2008). Additionally, transfer directional statistics indicated that while two-year to four-year transfer behavior was most prevalent (10.9%) four-year to four-year, four-year to two-year, two-year to two-year, and two-year to less than two-year transfer decisions were also commonplace (NCES, 2011).

The Transfer Dilemma: Its Creation

Historical Background

The creation of today’s transfer student dilemma began during the 1940s.  Initially in 1911, with the creation of America’s first community college, Joliet Junior College, through the 1950s, governing the transfer of students from two- to four-year schools was the primary goal of community colleges (Rendón & Nora, 1988).  In 1919 only 39 community colleges existed making this task fairly manageable.

In 1946 the President’s Commission on Higher Education was formed by Harry Truman.  The commission concluded, “forty-nine percent of the American public had the mental ability to complete 14 years of schooling” (Witt, Wattenbarger, Gollattscheck, & Suppiger, 1994, p. 130). After the report was issued, community colleges proliferated throughout the country. Additionally, the Servicemen Reenactment Act of 1944 (GI Bill) was created to divert veterans away from the scarce job market and into the educational system after World War II.

Prior to the 1940s, higher education institutions were primarily privately funded, limited, and largely restricted to individuals who had both the financial and political connections to access them. However, with the influx of government monetary funding, community colleges surged throughout America (Goodale & Sandeen, 1970), educational funding was provided to citizens who would not otherwise be able to obtain it, and the landscape of higher education institutions vastly shifted. Thus, the GI Bill extended higher learning access to veterans, those in lower socioeconomic classes, and to groups of people who previously had limited or no access to such opportunities (e.g., women and people of color).

Evolution of the Transfer Dilemma

Millions of Americans eventually took advantage of the GI Bill’s educational and low interest, zero down payment home loans. Because of this, community college enrollment boomed, and both transfer student populations and the American higher educational system proliferated. Contemporary economic struggles continue to expand this growth. Massive unemployment, corporate downsizing, adult career changers, state tuition incentives, and ongoing veteran education all contribute greatly to the ongoing evolution of transfer student classifications and behaviors. In fact, the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education (2011b) states, “There is a critical need to educate all Americans. With the virtual disappearance of opportunities for unskilled labor in the U.S., in this century a college education has become essential for anyone who seeks meaningful employment and social mobility (p. 2).”

Additionally, the entrance of community colleges into American higher education brought with it internal and external student learning and pedagogical challenges and biases. For example, on average community college students usually come from relatively less advantaged backgrounds (Dougherty, 1994), and many are first generation college students who may also be the first in their family to graduate from high school (Chandler, 1999). The National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education (2011b) confirmed that these two populations have learning and pedagogical challenges, “Too often universities and colleges tend to focus more intently on emulating their more selective peers than on taking stock of their students’ learning needs and helping them achieve educational success. The element that tends not to figure substantially in the visions and strategic plans of institutions is a concern for measurable improvement in learning” (p. 2).

Agreeing Gonzalez (2001) stated that the faculty at four-year institutions often negatively perceive the capabilities of community college transfer students. Consequently, students transferring from two-year to four-year institutions were oftentimes viewed as possessing less ability and overall preparation than their peers in four-year institutions. They were often deemed less likely to succeed than those who matriculated directly from high school into a four-year college. However, Ratcliff (1995) noted that two- and four-year institutions provide relatively equal cognitive gains for students after the initial year, suggesting students who begin college at two-year institutions do not sacrifice intellectual gains.

The Transfer Dilemma: Its Current Status

Student Classifications and Behavior

Laanan and Sanchez (1996) and Susskind (1997) recognized the vastness in transfer student behavior. They suggested that community college leaders measure effectiveness by identifying various transfer types in addition to monitoring transfer rates. They classified the types of transfer students into the categories presented below:

  • Vertical transfers: students who move from a junior to a senior college
  • Horizontal or lateral transfers: students who move between two institutions at the same level (e.g., from one two-year to another two-year institution)
  • Reverse transfers: students who begin their studies at a four-year college and graduate from a two-year college
  • Swirling transfers: students who enroll in two or more colleges simultaneously

Additionally, I would supplement this list by adding the following category:

  • Internal transfers: students who earn both their two- and four-year degrees at the same college. This scenario is most often only found at comprehensive colleges accredited to offer more than one degree level.


Institutional Response to Transfer Student Behavior

Student transfer behavior between educational institutions has created the need to successfully educate diverse student populations within a singular institution. As a result, the quest to address student learning and pedagogical cultural changes has begun proliferating throughout American higher educational institutions. Coupled with this, today’s massive unemployment rates, corporate downsizing, adult career changes, and state tuition incentives continue to influence previously unseen college enrollment patterns. Current unemployment rates and adult career changes have motivated highly-educated citizens to enroll in two-year colleges to earn associate degrees (even though they have already earned baccalaureate and master degrees); state tuition incentives are encouraging high-achieving recent high school graduates to directly enroll in community colleges before attending four-year institutions; and corporate downsizing has led to a host of mature adults returning to the classrooms to expand their professional credentials.

Gone are the days when American educational institutions could focus primarily on homogenous educational groups and monolithic teaching methods. Furthermore they can no longer expect a plethora of federal, state and local funding, non-parental interaction, and limited or postal communication. In fact Goldstein (2009) and Kimmich (2011), current and former Chancellors of The City University of New York (CUNY), repeated emphasis that higher education design must change. Contributing factors described by Goldstein and Kimmich included the diversity of special student population needs, globalization, access to instant communication and information, limited funding resources, increased accountability, increased demand for greater student access, and an increase in the type and number of higher educational institutions at-large. These factors have led to the restructuring of the basic design, philosophy and operations of higher educational institutions over the last 75 years.

I believe money is at the heart of all of these changes. Economics, whether masked under the disguise of surplus or deficit, is the fundamental element that has prompted these institutional changes. Kimmich (2011) indicated that long-term job security is becoming a relic from the past, educational standards to achieve a minimum standard of living have been raised, teaching and outcomes (job placement) accountability are being scrutinized, and both the public and private sectors are demanding more service—more options with less revenue. Additionally, the biggest obstacles impeding transfer student progression and timely completion of degrees have been identified as accurate and timely evaluation of transfer credits, loss of credits, and/or additional credits required after transferring. Lynch (1994) concurred with these and identified other barriers as well. Plus, Cejda (1994), Diaz (1992), and Knoell & Medsker (1965) found that a 0.5 (or more) drop in a student grade point average occurs due to transfer shock. These barriers cannot be overlooked. Each of these obstacles places a huge economical burden on students.

In response to the growing numbers of transfer students across the United States and ongoing economic challenges, many legislatures and boards of education have responded by directing energy toward creating system-wide transfer initiatives and articulation mandates. Additionally, federal pressure to address these concerns continue to be applied through such recurring legislation bill goals as the Higher Education Affordability and Equality Act of 2010 (HR 5078). As a result of these multiple forces discussed in this section, American educational institutions are being pushed to simultaneously address credit transfer, remediation and student preparation needs in general, and faculty teaching expectations at-large, at both institutional and federal levels.

Student Learning and Pedagogical Challenges

The issues of how credits transfer and how they are articulated both within and outside of similar or differing educational programs and institutions have been areas of contention for many decades. Over the last 10 years, several state educational systems have taken on these issues by undergoing the massive challenge of revamping their in-state transfer articulation policies and procedures. Florida (Florida Department of Education 2011), Georgia (University System of Georgia, 2008) and Illinois (Illinois Board of Higher Education, 2001) have successfully undergone this tremendous task; and New York’s CUNY (Goldstein, 2011) system has resolved to complete this task by 2013. As these examples show, states have begun to move away from allowing individual school-to-school transfer and articulation agreements and are instituting statewide mandated agreements.

Additionally, states are being forced to address the incredibly political task of improving the effectiveness of academic and degree progression of two-year institutions. They are also charged with reducing entrance barriers and inappropriate academic stereotypes at four-year institutions. The National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education (2011b) stated:

The nation’s system of higher education is often described as a pyramid in which the foundation layer consists of students attending open-enrollment institutions, including students who matriculate in community colleges, technical institutions, and proprietary institutions offering two-year degrees or certification in targeted employment skills. Further up the pyramid is a substantial cohort of students in public regional universities as well as in less selective independent liberal arts colleges. The next stages of the structure include students in state flagship research universities, and finally students enrolled in the nation’s most selective independent colleges and research universities.

As it tapers toward the top, the pyramid comprises an ever smaller number of institutions with selective admissions that enroll the nation’s highest-achieving students, who in many cases are also the most advantaged students in terms of educational and socioeconomic background. What may be less clear from the image of the pyramid itself are the different expenditures made to educate students at each tier of the structure. In fact, the dollars expended per student in the lower tiers of the system are substantially less than the dollars spent to educate students in the upper strata. From the standpoint of meeting the nation’s need for a better educated and more highly skilled population in the coming decades, the higher education pyramid as it now exists would need to be inverted. (p. 2)

Unquestionably, privately funded higher educational institutions have been in the education business far longer than most publicly funded institutions. As a result, they generally have the economical means to selectively choose which caliber of students they desire to admit; and by choosing their student body, they oftentimes are able to avoid addressing more diverse and complexly challenging student learning pedagogical issues. This is simply not the reality for our public sector.

The junior college movement actually began with its founder William Rainey Harper in 1892 when he divided the upper and lower divisions at the University of Chicago, named the lower-division departments in 1895 “junior colleges,” and created an associate degree for its graduates in 1899 (Witt et al., 1994). Between 1929 and 1939, the Great Depression and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) allocated funds to communities and helped to firmly establish the existence of junior colleges (Witt et al., 1994).

The relatively recent arrival of public higher educational institutions within the past 75 years has indeed provided educational access to the masses of the American people. The United States’ movement toward open access and ultimate creation of a plethora of two-year colleges also brought with it the quest and complication of determining the best means to educate the tremendous number of students who require remedial education. The goal of providing all Americans with “the critical knowledge and skills that allow graduates to function as thinking, engaged, and contributing members of society throughout life” (National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education, 2011b, p. 2) has also unavoidably spawned the widely debated and equally academically complex issue of “who,” “how,” and “where” this responsibility should be placed.

Since the beginning of the junior college movement, there seems to have been a general consensus among the two- and four-year sectors to retain the association of experiential and research learning with four-year colleges. As a result, remedial, English as a second language, and general education learning were delegated as primary responsibilities of the two-year colleges. Additionally, this responsibility was further compounded by the fact that state and federal funding mandates their mission includes servicing and adapting to the needs of all students (Witt, Wattenbarger, Gollattscheck, & Suppiger, 1994).

Unfortunately, these practices have more now than ever thrust community colleges into the remediation arena, and in some cases, have required them to serve in roles, which were formerly held by our secondary schools. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education expands upon this by stating (2011b):
The element that tends not to figure substantially in the visions and strategic plans of institutions is a concern for measurable improvement in learning. The more typical strategy is to focus an institution’s imagination, energy, and resources on becoming more selective, more attractive to the best students and faculty, rather than on configuring the institution to educate the student body of the future.

Even less likely to appear in the aspirations of most four-year public and independent higher education institutions is a goal of working constructively with regional K–12 schools to foster a better understanding among students of the advantages that result from a college education, and to help students and schools identify the middle and high school courses and the habits of mind that best prepare one for college-level study.

Discussion Questions

The results of these student learning practices have forced both academic and student affairs professionals to partake in some currently ongoing and fiery pedagogical conversions. As a seasoned administrator in this field who is firmly committed to professional development, I have come to understand that many of these concerns surround the following issues:

  • Why are two-year colleges’ retention and graduation rates so low?
  • Does at least half of our general public still have the intellectual capacity to continue their studies past their high school education?
  • Are retention and graduates rates being fairly defined for the two-year sectors?
  • Are students who transfer from two-year colleges adequately prepared?
  • Do faculty within two- or four-year colleges truly know how to teach?
  • Are all higher educational institutions responsible to teach all students?
  • Should faculty know how to teach diverse educational groups before they can earn the title professor?
  • How can technology be used to increase student success?
  • How can colleges work more effectively with high schools to prepare students for college?
  • Is there a point when students must receive advisement services to support them in their educational success?
  • To what extent do environmental factors hinder transfer student success?

In the world of academia, obtaining answers to these challenging questions can be a time consuming and comprehensive process. However, the mere discussion and ultimate resolution of them oftentimes leads to some enhanced and transforming educational experiences for the country at-large.


Transfer students are a major constituent group of higher education institutions. The added value they bring to the educational environment is historically rich and profitable. Their road traveled throughout their transfer process is oftentimes filled with barriers, obstacles, and financial challenges. Colleges must make an investment in their success by ensuring that faculty and staff can systematically make conscientious efforts to help ease transfer students through their transitions.

Maintaining our national educational commitment to access is unquestionably a daunting process. Increasing our nation’s competitiveness in a global economy by increasing the educational preparedness of all its citizens is vital to our continued national strength; however, it is no small undertaking. Yet, the literature firmly indicates that it is not only our nation that should make a sound investment, but it is also critical towards ensuring our country’s continued success.

Transfer Issues Workshop

Given these tough issues affect our professional responsibilities daily, the Commission for Academic Affairs Administrators and the Commission for Student Development in the Two-Year College co-hosted a one-day drive-in workshop on March 23, 2012 at Jefferson Community and Technical College located in Louisville, KY. This workshop was intended to help us address ongoing transfer, remediation, articulation, and pedagogical teaching concerns. During this conference attendees participated in conversations surrounding: (a) articulation issues between the community college and the four-year institution, (b) policy issues between the institutions, (c) overall preparation of the students for academic work at the four-year institution (d) dual program agreements, (e) dual scholarship and research opportunities, (f) two-year/four-year collaborations in preparing our students for academic scholarship, (g) faculty who teach at both two- and four-year institutions, (h) academic challenges of teaching students at diverse educational levels, and (i) grant opportunities available for two-four year college collaborations.


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About the Author

Paulette Brower-Garrett serves as Director of Academic Advisement & Evening & Weekend Services at the College of Staten Island/CUNY. She served as an ACPA Directorate Member with the Commission for Student Development In The Two Year College from 2009-2011, and as their Advisory Board Member during the 2011-2012 academic year. Also a National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) member, she has over 25 years of advising experience and has taught as an adjunct faculty member and presented at various national and regional conferences. Ms. Brower-Garrett has a BA degree in Botany (Drew University), MS degree in Counseling (Seton Hall University), MA degree in Social Sciences and MBA in Finance (William Paterson University) and is a Pi Lambda Theta member.

Please send inquiries to Paulette Brower-Garrett at [email protected]

The opinions expressed by Developments author(s) are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members, Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

Creating A Culture of Inclusion: Shifting the Disability Frame

Creating A Culture of Inclusion: Shifting the Disability Frame

Melanie V. Thompson
Northern Illinois University

The use of Universal Design (UD) within higher education has primarily been directed towards students with disabilities. In recent years, research has proposed that UD is beneficial to a wide range of students, including but not limited to students with disabilities.  Students not speaking English as their first language, students who are non-traditional in age, and students with varied learning styles may all benefit from the infusion of UD within higher education.  In light of the far reaching potential for access and inclusion that is associated with UD, the ACPA Standing Committee on Disability (SCD) has proposed that UD become a standard framework for designing learning environments within ACPA and for individual member use.  Over the course of the next several months, the SCD will be spotlighting the use of UD from various perspectives within higher education including: (a) a disability resource provider, (b) a faculty member, (c) an individual with a disability, and (d) a student affairs professional.  The first article, from the Chairperson of the SCD will provide an overview of a UD framework and demonstrate the applicability of UD to disability resources within higher education.

Disability literature abounds with pleas to incorporate Universal Design (UD) within higher education (see Burgstahler & Cory, 2008; Higbee & Goff, 2008).  Currently, there is little reference to UD outside of disability-related research and writing.  Among disability scholars and practitioners, there is belief that the infusion of UD within higher education would improve the engagement and retention of all students, not just students with disabilities.  A handful of federally funded grant programs have set out to prove this.

By infusing UD into education, college students benefit from flexibility, adaptability, and tolerance for error in a supportive learning environment.  By changing the frame through which disability is viewed, institutions can continue to move forward including disability as a tenet of diversity.  Research asserts that as faculty and staff within institutions of higher education include components of UD in and out of the classroom, students with disabilities will have a decreased need for some types of accommodations and encounter fewer barriers. Disability Resource Centers may also benefit from increased use of UD in higher education; using UD may allow more opportunities to concentrate on barrier reduction and individualized problem solving since less time may be devoted to addressing short-term, temporary accommodations.

In light of support for the infusion of UD within higher education, the SCD has proposed to ACPA leadership that a UD framework be utilized within ACPA.  For example, UD could be used to inform the design of professional development, the web site platform and content, and membership materials.  Four SCD members have crafted this Developments series, “Expanding the Frame: Applying Universal Design in Higher Education,” to exemplify the intersections of a UD framework. Professionals in different roles within higher education have each written a part of the series. In the first of this four-part series on UD, I will provide an introduction to UD and discuss how my role as the director of a disability resource center is impacted by the use of a UD framework.  As you read through the series, I invite you to question how you could include UD in the work you do.  How could you inspire others to use UD?  Also, how does UD benefit students on a regular basis, whether those students have disabilities or not?

Universal Design Framework

Ronald L. Mace initially conceptualized UD as “the designing of all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life” (Center for Universal Design, 2010).  Well-known examples include curb cuts, closed captioning, and automatic door openers.  UD has subsequently been applied to education, which has been referred to as Universal Design of Instruction (UDI or UID) (see Burgstahler & Cory, 2008; Campbell, 2004; McGuire & Scott, 2006; Mino, 2004). Roberts, Park, Brown, and Cook (2011) would assert that there is no meaningful distinction between these two terms.  UD has also been applied to learning under the term Universal Design of Learning (UDL) (see Morra & Reynolds, 2010; National Center on Universal Design for Learning, n.d.).  Throughout the SCD UD series you will see reference to UD, UDI, UID, and UDL reflecting each author’s preference.

The Center for Universal Designlocated at North Carolina State University (see promotes the following seven principles of UD: (a) equitable use: the design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities; (b) flexibility in use: the design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities; (c) simple and intuitive use: use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level; (d) perceptible information: the design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities; (e) tolerance for error: the design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions; (f) low physical effort: the design can be used efficiently, comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue; and (g) size and space for approach and use: appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.  These principles are the foundation for UD, regardless of the context applied to.  To apply UD principles to instruction, Burgstahler (2008) suggests adopting the following process: (a) identify the course; (b) define the universe; (c) involve students; (d) adopt instructional strategies; (e) apply instructional strategies; (f) plan for accommodations; and (g) evaluate.

When UD principles are applied to instruction, the result is termed Universal Design of Instruction (UDI or UID), which McGuire and Scott (2006) define as “a framework for faculty to use in planning and delivering instruction and assessing of learning outcomes.  The underlying premise is a value system that embraces heterogeneity in learners and espouses high academic standards” (p. 125).  When UD principles are applied to learning, the result is termed Universal design for Learning (UDL).  The National Center on Universal Design for Learning (see promotes the following three principles of UDL: (a) multiple means of representation; (b) multiple means of expression; and (c) multiple means of engagement.

Regardless of the terminology used, the overarching premise of UD is to be proactive in design and identify multiple ways in which the end goals can be met. The forthcoming articles in this UD series will further demonstrate UD principles. For those wishing to learn more about the principles of UD, recommended readings include Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice (Burgstahler & Cory, 2008), Rethinking Disability: Principles for Professional and Social Change (DePoy & Gilson, 2004) and Making Good on the Promise: Student Affairs Professionals with Disabilities (Higbee & Mitchell, 2009).

UD and Disability Resource Centers: One Perspective

In the fall of 2010, I completed research with 58 faculty and staff in which nearly half (44%) of the respondents reported having had no prior training regarding disability, limited awareness of opportunities to consult regarding accessibility concerns, and limited knowledge regarding barriers faced by students with invisible disabilities (e.g., Autism Spectrum Disorder, traumatic brain injury, chronic medical conditions, and mental health diagnoses).  How could I expect faculty and staff to engage as advocates and allies for inclusion and barrier reduction if they were not aware of barriers, were not aware of consultation resources, and were not aware of the types of disabilities impacting a large percentage of students with disabilities?

During that same research, 35% of the respondents indicated they did not agree that disability was a component of diversity.  One major impetus supporting UD within higher education is the diversity of the student body.  Again I questioned how to identify and develop disability advocates and allies if over one-third of faculty and staff respondents disregarded disability as a tenet of diversity.

Since inclusive environments for diverse students increase retention rates (Lombardi, Gerdes, & Murray, 2011; Merisotis, 2008), I have found it imperative to identify ways faculty and staff can create inclusive environments for individuals with disabilities.  UD principles have been one way I have attempted to do so.  When sharing UD principles with others, whether during consultations, departmental meetings, or through university committee work, I often get an “a-ha” reaction in which the principles of UD are described as “common sense.” Another reaction I have received is that a UD framework may positively impact customer service.  While not an expected reaction to sharing UD, this customer service idea was an “a-ha” moment for me as well, and has positively impacted how I talk about UD within our Center, with staff, and with colleagues.

I have found select constituency groups willing to collaborate and proactively build inclusion for individuals with disabilities, particularly when invested in the outcome. This, I find, is preferable to demanding that groups conform because of legal, federal mandates. Framing UD as a customer service philosophy has resonated with some of these constituency groups.  I am not asserting individuals with disabilities are customers; however, I am saying in order to be student-centered, customer service may be viewed as essential.  If UD principles seem like good customer service principles for some, then using this analogy will remain as one of the many tools I employ to advocate for inclusion of individuals with disabilities.  I share this example more to demonstrate that engaging folks in a conversation about UD can be framed in myriad ways; I have found that finding what is salient to my “audience” goes a long way in building support for infusing UD into higher education.

The current college student population includes more non-traditional age students, veterans, and second-language learners.  Today’s students also represent a range of social, economic, and cultural backgrounds.  As an educational framework, UD is likely to help this range of students, including students with and without disabilities. UD is particularly valuable for students who have invisible disabilities and/or those who do not want to disclose their disabilities. Given the stigma often associated with disability, educators should not be surprised that many students choose not to disclose (Marshak, Van Wieren, Ferrell, Swiss, & Dugan, 2010).  Unfortunately, without disclosure, access to formal support and accommodations is typically unavailable within institutions of higher education.  By providing greater access to the widest range of students through UD, institutions and educators may reduce the need to disclose for some students.

As a disability resource provider and administrator, I have spent countless hours each semester working individually with faculty, staff, and students to resolve accommodation-based concerns.  Faculty have expressed frustration when students do not request accommodations until several weeks into the semester.  Some faculty have questioned the necessity for accommodations when students have requested them midway through their courses.  Staff have voiced frustration when students have not disclosed a disability until experiencing a barrier.  This frustration has frequently been linked to the cost of an accommodation needed to remove a barrier, which may not have been sufficiently budgeted for, if budgeted for at all, and has been linked to disappointment in the result of contributing to the exclusion of students with disabilities.  Students with disabilities have articulated frustration in having to do more than students without disabilities to experience a level playing field, in having to disclose personal information, and having to argue, advocate, and fight for legally protected rights.  Proactively applying a UD framework often can reduce all of these frustrations, simply by providing an inclusive and welcoming environment.

It was stated earlier that increased use of UD may benefit disability resource centers by allowing more opportunities for consultation on barrier reduction and individualized problem solving because less time would be devoted to addressing short-term, temporary accommodations.  Research (Lovett, 2010) has proposed that some accommodations provided on a semester or term basis could be reduced through the use of UD.  For example, some faculty have begun allowing extended time for all students to complete quizzes and exams, or have started to use assessment methods that are not constrained by a set amount of class time. Research (Ofiesh & Hughes, 2002) has suggested that students who do not need extended time do not do any better with extra time.  Conversely, research has also suggested that students who do need extended time and are not allowed it do worse than they would have done with extended time (Ofiesh & Hughes, 2002).  McGuire and Scott (2006) provided examples of how faculty can apply UDL in the classroom, including posting lecture notes online, sharing rubrics and/or models for written assignments, giving students formative feedback on writing assignments, and using varied instructional strategies (e.g., lectures, videos, guest speakers, group activities).

Next Steps

Next steps will vary depending upon individual roles within higher education and familiarity with UD principles. A good starting point is to identify the model of disability you personally embrace. Knowing how you frame disability will allow you to make informed decisions about including UD. Other next steps may include identifying advocates and allies that embrace UD; working with faculty/staff development centers to create trainings on UD; infusing UD into mission, vision, and program objectives; reviewing program requirements and physical locations for barriers; providing alternate format of materials; ensuring that online materials are accessible; and reviewing syllabi for inclusive/accessibility statements.


Burgstahler, S. (2008). Universal design of instruction: From principles to practice. In S. Burgstahler, & R. C. Cory (Eds.), Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice (pp. 23-45), Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Burgstahler, S., & Cory, R. C. (Eds.). (2008). Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Campbell, D. (2004). Assistive technology and universal instruction design: A postsecondary perspective. Equity and Excellence in Education, 37(2), 167-173.

Center for Universal Design. (1997). What is universal design? Retrieved from
Center for Universal Design. (2010). History of Ronald L. Mace. Retrieved from

DePoy, E., & Filson, S.F. (2004). Rethinking disability: Principles for professional and social change.  Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Higbee, J.L., & Goff, E. (Eds.). (2008). Pedagogy and student services for institutional transformation: Implementing universal design in higher education. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Research on Development Education and Urban Literacy. Retrieved from

Higbee, J.L., & Mitchell, A.A. (Eds.). (2009). Making good on the promise: Student affairs professionals with disabilities. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Lombardi, A., Gerdes, H., & Murray, C. (2011). Validating an assessment of individual actions, postsecondary supports, and social supports of college students with disabilities. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 48(1), 107-126.

Lovett, B.J. (2010). Extended time testing accommodations for students with disabilities: Answers to five fundamental questions. Review of Educational Research, 80(4), 611-638.

Marshak, L., Van Wieren, T., Ferrell, D., Swiss, L., & Dugan, C. (2010). Exploring barriers to college student use of disability services. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 22(3), 151-165.

McGuire, J. M., & Scott, S. S. (2006). Universal design for instruction: Extending the universal design paradigm to college instruction. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 19(1), 124-134.

Merisotis, J. P. (2008). Where do we go from here? Reducing inequities and today’s changing demographic. The New England Journal of Higher Education, 22(5), 27-29.

Mino, J. (2004). Planning for inclusion: Using universal instructional design to create a learner-centered community college classroom. Equity and Excellence in Education, 37(2). 154-160.

Morra, T., & Reynolds, J. (2010). Universal design for learning: Application for technology enhanced learning. Inquiry, 15(1), 43-51.
National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (n.d.). [Web site]. Retrieved from

Ofiesh, N.S., & Hughes, C.A. (2002). How much time?: A review of the literature on extended test time for postsecondary students with learning disabilities. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 16(1), 2-16.

Roberts, K., Park, H-J., Brown, S., & Cook, B. (2011). Universal design for instruction in postsecondary education: A systematic review of empirically based articles. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 24(1), 5-15.


About the Author

Melanie V. Thompson, Ed.S., NCC, LPC, LMHC, is the Director of the Center for Access-Ability Resources at Northern Illinois University. She also serves as the 2011-2013 Chairperson of the ACPA Standing Committee on Disability. 

Please send inquiries to [email protected]

The opinions expressed by Developments author(s) are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members, Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

Going Beyond Legal Obligations: Be Guided by Fairness and Justice

Going Beyond Legal Obligations: Be Guided by Fairness and Justice

Robert M. Hendrickson
Pennsylvania State University

When Dixon v. Alabama (1961) was decided, I was a junior in high school, and at the time, I had no idea of the revolutionary nature of this case.  What I learned as I began to study legal issues in higher education was that this decision was a watershed case that brought the courts through the college gates and established a new constitutional relationship between students and colleges and universities.  This new constitutional relationship resulted in the courts exploring the applicability of certain constitutional rights to college students.  These rights, commonly discussed in higher education judicial circles today, included due process, privacy, equal protection under the law, gun control, and freedom of speech, press, and religion. These areas, and many others, have been the topic of discussion in APCA Developmentswhere legal issues have been explored and implications for practice were presented for student affairs practitioners.

This is my last contribution to Developments, and this fact has resulted in some reflection on how far we have come in protecting student’s rights while creating a safe, healthy, and diverse educational environment that promotes student development and growth.  It has resulted in a personal retrospective of my own experience as an administrator responsible for enforcing institutional policy while protecting student’s rights, all the time trying to utilize professional and ethical standards.  It is not just a question of what is legal, in many cases, but what is fundamentally fair and just.  Our standard ought not to be whether we are operating within what the law requires but, rather, how do we conduct a fundamentally fair and just process where the rights of both the accused and the accuser are protected.  Applying that higher standard of being fundamentally fair and just is tested directly in Title IX cases of sexual assault.

Particularly difficult are those cases that involve alcohol and acquaintance rape. These cases usually involve alcohol consumption and questions of whether the sexual involvement was consensual.  These cases are complicated further by the fact that they may involve criminal activity (i.e., rape), but often we elect, as an institution, not to report a potential crime to police.  Though there may be good rationale for not reporting this criminal activity, whether this is educationally and developmentally sound practice remains unclear.  Are we actually enabling irresponsible behaviors because students know they will be protected by the institution and not be held responsible by the outside world for their actions?  The 18-year-old adult not enrolled in college would face criminal prosecution for similar behavior.  Are we being fair and just to all students by protecting a handful from criminal prosecution?  An actual case may help to understand how these issues play out in sexual assault cases.

Last fall, as I was beginning to think about this final column in ACPA Developments, I saw an article in the September 6, 2011 issue of  Inside Higher Education (IHE) entitled, “New Scrutiny for Sex Assault Cases”.  I thought this would be the perfect topic on which to write because it addressed issues that require administrators to go beyond basic legal requirements to provide a fundamental fair and just process for all parties.  Little did I know at the time how prophetic this choice was and how sexual assault would affect me professionally, as well as the University to which I have given 28 years of my life.  As the reports of child abuse unfolded at Penn State, my reaction was a variety of emotions and a tendency to hide from this topic.  Sexual assault involving campus constituencies, regardless of whether it’s abuse of students or children, raises similar issues.   In time, however, I was able to move beyond the sorrow and anger I was feeling and realized that understanding the legal and ethical requirements in sexual assault cases will help to understand policy and practice that can be applied equally to cases of child abuse.  What follows is not a discussion of the situation at Penn State, where legal process and investigations will determine guilt, dysfunction and remedies to be applied in the future.  However, the resolution of sexual assault cases in recent years can provide student affairs administrators with some guidelines to a fundamentally fair and just process in resolving these cases.

In Doe v. University of the South 687 F. Supp. 744 (E.D. Tenn. 2009), after an encounter on August 30, 2008, between the plaintiff Doe (a male student) and a female student, the female student filed a complaint with the University alleging rape.  The University’s Title IX sexual assault policy and procedures requires that a student be notified within five class days after a complaint has been filed.  The Dean appoints an investigator who interviews students and witnesses involved  and, where possible, obtains written statements.  The accused and accuser are each asked to provide written accounts of the incident and each is provided with a consultant, one character witness, and a 24-hour notice of the hearing date and time.   On September 17, John Doe was asked by the Dean’s office to attend a meeting with the Dean of Students on the morning of September 18.  That morning, he was informed of the charges, given statements of witnesses, informed of the hearing scheduled for September 19, 2008, and told to bring a character witness to the hearing.  Doe was quizzed on his written statement by the appointed investigator before the hearing.  Doe did not hear the hearing investigator’s oral testimony and was allowed in the hearing only during his own and his character witness’ testimony.  He was informed later that day that he was found guilty and given two options: suspension for one semester with the assault remaining on his record or suspension for two semesters with no record of the assault and the option to reapply for admission.  He was informed of the right to appeal but was told the Vice Chancellor might increase the punishment and the complainant might file criminal charges.  He accepted the two-semester suspension but appealed the decision. The Vice Chancellor upheld the original decision.  Doe never reapplied for admission but sued in federal court.

As IHE reported, the case was tried before a jury in Federal Court and found that the institution was negligent in the application of its sexual assault policies.  John Doe was awarded damages of lost tuition.  Further complicating this case was the fact, revealed during the trial, that the female had medical issues requiring medications to control mood, narcolepsy, and these had been combined with consumption of alcohol at levels higher than she had experienced before.  The hearing committee ignored any information about her medical condition and alcohol consumption. The statement she gave to the committee was erroneous because she claimed that she had no alcohol for four hours prior to seeing Doe.  The hearing committee had acknowledged that Doe thought the sex was consensual and that the committee lacked information about alcohol consumption and her incapacitated condition.  In these cases sometimes, institutions will not consider certain facts in order to protect the victim.  Other institutions seem to go out of their way to protect the accused.  The difficulty in a “he said – she said” case is finding that balance between both the rights of the alleged victim and the accused.  Although I could not find the specific counts of negligence by the University found at trial, there are a number of process issues that appear to have been ignored as the institution seemed to have rushed to get this situation behind them.  In this case, it appears not handing the case over to the authorities may have actually been detrimental to the accused student.

In April of 2011, the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights issued a letter providing guidelines for institutions to follow in enforcing Title IX regulations involving sexual harassment and sexual violence. The statistic on sexual violence are that “1 in 5 women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault in college” while 6.1% of males are victims of similar sexual violence (p. 2).  The letter set out specific guidelines that institutions should follow in assessing their policies and procedures surrounding sexual harassment and assault.  The letter describes a grievance procedure that institutions should implement to handle these cases and provides that institutions are allowed to use disciplinary procedures in place of a grievance procedure for cases of sexual violence (p.8).  The letter argues that the standard to prove guilt used in Title IX grievances be “the preponderance of evidence” (i.e., it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred) (p. 11).  OCR objects to the “clear and convincing” language (i.e., it is highly probable or reasonably certain that sexual harassment or violence occurred) (p. 11).  I would argue that the “preponderance” standard should be applied where sexual harassment is at issue.  However, I would recommend that in cases of sexual violence that the institution’s disciplinary procedures be followed judiciously and the “clear and convincing” standard be applied as proof of guilt.   Using this standard will achieve balance of a fundamentally fair and just process that protects the rights of both the victim and the accused.

Sexual assaults involve violations of laws and are considered criminal acts.  I realize there is a desire to protect victims when acquaintance rape involves students on college campuses.  The result is that, many times, there is a tendency to handle these cases within the institution because either the victim requests confidentiality or the institution bases its decision on the concepts of in loco parentis.As a result no criminal charges are filed.   Are we enablers when we insulate students from responsibility for their actions?  Many of these cases involve excessive alcohol consumption. Are we enabling excessive alcohol consumption by insulating college students from criminal prosecution for sexual assault?  Is the college or university an enclave where the community is a protected environment for experimentation? Is the extension of this rationale what resulted in Penn State’s failure to report alleged sexual abuse to civil authorities?  The jury is still out on that question, but perhaps we need to rethink policies were we are handling criminal activity internally instead of reporting it to appropriate authorities. This may be legal but is it fundamentally fair, just and educationally sound?  Making distinctions between what is legal and what is fundamentally fair and just may be helpful in leading to educationally sound policy and practice.

Administrators Engaging in the Research Process

The purpose of this Developments series is to explore different perspectives of what it means to be a scholar practitioner, the various ways in which one can be a scholarship practitioner, and the impact doing so has on one’s personal and professional life. The contributing authors of this series address how they have approached being a scholar practitioner, the challenges and opportunities that accompany their approach, and recommendations for others who also want to want to pursue a career where scholarship and practice are purposefully interwoven.

In earlier Developments articles on entering the professoriate, authors focused on the various ways in which an administrator would need to understand the rules, norms, and expectations of the profession and to engage in scholarship as a prelude to making the transition from student affairs administrator to professor. For example, in her article “Student Affairs Pathways to the Professoriate: Perspectives on Teaching,” Julie Owen admonishes student affairs professionals that the complexities of faculty socialization affect one’s ability to bring experience as a student development administrator into the traditional classroom setting. In “Writing for Publication,” Dilley and Hart suggest that conference presentations, research, and scholarly journal articles, and articles in professional journals should be aimed at multiple audiences but developed into a research agenda for which the individual might become known in the field.

This article will turn the question around. What about the student affairs professional who wants to engage in scholarship while remaining an administrator? Is it possible to be a practitioner who is also a scholar rather than one who uses scholarship to transition into a faculty position?

What is a Scholar Practitioner?

In his seminal work Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, Boyer (1997) argued for a broader definition of scholarship for the professoriate. Boyer was concerned about not only what “counts” as scholarship in the tenure process, but what matters about it. He argued, for example, that the scholarship of teaching – the study of how knowledge can best be transmitted to others and best learned – is a valid subject of inquiry for faculty members.

A scholar practitioner, on the other hand, is not concerned about tenure. Instead, the scholar practitioner engages in research and scholarly endeavors while continuing in the role of an administrator with no thought of transitioning to the professoriate. Scholarship in this sense is an end rather than a means to an end. The scholar practitioner engages in research to improve his or her own practice or to develop best practices in his or her administrative discipline. Scholar practitioners read the research reports of others and use them to improve their own effectiveness and that of their staff or peers. The scholar practitioner generates new knowledge not to convince a tenure committee that she or he has the right stuff, but simply to contribute to the advance of knowledge or practice in a chosen field.

What’s the Payoff for Student Development Professionals?

While tenure is not at stake and therefore is not a motivator for scholarly engagement by student development practitioners or other college administrators, there are still a number of rewards for the practitioner who decides to pursue a research agenda. First, ascendancy to the presidency in higher education has historically been through the academic department chair, dean and provost pathway. Few financial affairs professionals (like myself) – and perhaps even fewer student affairs professionals – have found an easy passage to the presidency. Building a resume that includes conference presentations, book and article reviews and published journal articles, book chapters and monographs can substantially improve the odds that a senior administrator in student affairs will be a considered a serious candidate for the leadership of a higher education institution.

Second, there is the joy of working at the nexus of research work and professional work. It is not clear in all cases which drives which – is it only true that research findings should influence the work we do and the way we do it – or should our work influence the scholarship we do and the ways we conduct it?

Third, there is the question of legitimacy. Student affairs professionals constantly struggle for legitimacy in the eyes of their faculty colleagues. Who has not heard the adage that “the faculty are the university” and that teaching and learning (meaning what goes on inside the classroom) are the core of the enterprise? Even granting that this is true, student development professionals have made a very strong case for the value of the learning that occurs outside the classroom, in student leadership opportunities, student clubs and activities, community volunteer opportunities and the like. Yet the student affairs function gets little respect from the faculty on some campuses. The student development professional who doubles as a scholar practitioner meets the faculty on their own terms – as an equal who engages in scholarly pursuits, subjects his or her ideas to peer review and contributes to the advancement of knowledge. Becoming a scholar practitioner can improve the credibility of the student affairs professional when she or he brings ideas about teaching and learning to discussions of assessment and accountability, service learning or the value of co-curricular education efforts on campus.

Finally, there is the professional motivation and personal rewards associated with being a scholar practitioner. While it will not necessarily lead to promotion or a higher salary, and most certainly will not result in a tenured position, contributing to the advancement of knowledge and the improvement of practice are rewards in themselves. As a creative endeavor, the research process can provide both professional development and increased job satisfaction.

A Brief Case Study of One Scholar Practitioner

My own path to becoming a scholar practitioner has evolved over more than twenty years as a higher education administrator. I currently serve as the vice president for financial affairs and treasurer of a comprehensive master’s level private institution and have served at the senior management level since the 1990s in both public and private higher education.

My doctoral work included completion of an historical dissertation on the development of the research mission at two Midwestern urban state universities. During my doctoral program and since its completion, I have made research and scholarly presentations on various aspects of the history of higher education at conferences of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) and the History of Education Society. Coming directly out of my dissertation, my research focus has been on the historical development of the urban state universities sector of American higher education.

What, you might ask, is the connection between serving as the chief financial officer of a university and engaging in scholarship on the history of higher education? Most of the rewards, of course, have been either intangible or personal or both. The biggest payoff, however, has been a greater understanding of the world in which my faculty colleagues operate on a daily basis – the world of publish or perish. By putting myself in their shoes, I have gained a great deal of respect for the demands placed on them and the work involved in this aspect of their professional lives. I hope, in return, that they have gained some respect for my work and my efforts to engage in the knowledge generation process.

Getting Started as a Scholar Practitioner

Having been convinced by the articles in this series of the value of engaging in scholarly pursuits, yet not wishing to transition to the professoriate, where should the student affairs administrator who wants to become a scholar practitioner get started? Two immediate issues are finding time in an already hectic professional calendar to engage in research and finding support from your supervisor or others in the institution in terms of both time and resources.

Most colleges and universities (albeit perhaps less so in these difficult financial times) provide support to their administrators for conference attendance. Rather than merely attending the next gathering of your favorite professional organization, why not submit a proposal to make a presentation? If you ground your presentation in original research that you have conducted, rather than relying solely on the work of others, you will have taken a first step along the scholar practitioner road. If your proposal is accepted, actively seek the advice of your audience once you have completed the presentation, e.g. chat with them after the session or offer to send them the paper in return for feedback. Having been successful at one or more professional conferences, next submit a conference proposal to an appropriate scholarly organization such as ASHE or AERSA. Many colleges and universities will support the attendance of their administrators at scholarly conferences if they have an excepted peer reviewed paper. Finally, take your experience at conferences and move to the next level – submit a paper to an appropriate journal as Dilley and Hart outline in their article, “Writing for Publication.”

Finding – or making – the time for scholarly endeavors is a much more personal issue. In my case, all of my vacation time for two years was spent doing the research for my dissertation. As a morning person, I also find the time between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. and weekends my most productive working time. Each budding scholar practitioner will, of course, need to find his or her own solution to the time question.


The student development professional does not need to limit his or her interest in engaging in the research process to a career change strategy. One can engage in the pursuit of scholarship for the sheer joy of learning, for contributing to the advancement of knowledge, or for the development of best practices in a specific field. While both motivations for conducting research are valid, the latter provides student affairs administrators with everything from the potential to climb the administrative ladder in higher education to the satisfaction of doing something for the sheer pleasure of accomplishment.


Boyer, E. L. (1997). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Dilley, Patrick and Hart, Jeni (2009). Writing for publication. ACPA Developments. Winter 2009.

Owen, Julie (2009). Student affairs pathways to the professoriate: perspectives on teaching. ACPA Developments. Summer 2009.

Please send inquiries and feedback to Ralph Kidder at [email protected].

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A Flexible Student Development Program for Today’s Incredibly Busy Student

Everyone has a Roger on their Campus…

Roger, a student who commutes, is typical of many college students today. Busy doesn’t begin to describe him; he takes classes, works two jobs that consume 25-30 hours a week, occasionally volunteers in the community, and like most young adults, tries to have a social life when possible.

Roger is a pre-medical student intent on getting accepted into medical school. Because of this goal, he decided to take on leadership roles to enhance his medical school applications. Roger is the president of the pre-medical student organization. He discovered that he would like to learn more about developing his leadership skills and is interested in being a member of the university’s leadership development program. In addition he would like to join one of the community service student organizations because he has heard from several faculty and staff members how much professional schools (and employers) value leadership and community engagement experiences. Unfortunately, his academics, commuting, and work obligations simply do not allow him enough time to engage in many of the sustained leadership development experiences offered on campus.

Off campus, Roger volunteers for a number of short-term projects in his community. Recently, Roger spent his summer as a camp counselor/leader for a diverse group of inner-city children, and he currently shadows a doctor at a local hospital and volunteers there in preparation for his future as a physician. Even though these are not the “traditional” student engagement and leadership experiences provided on campus, shouldn’t they count for something?

Through service learning, internships, study abroad programs and many other opportunities, colleges and universities are encouraging student learning beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. The Superior Edge program at Northern Michigan University (NMU) utilizes this expanding concept of engagement and goes a step further in acknowledging that students can accomplish learning objectives both within and outside of sponsored university programs and initiatives. Superior Edge is built upon the premise that a student’s knowledge of leadership, civic engagement and responsibility, diversity, and career preparation can be acquired through a variety of experiences that are not confined to sponsored programs. Through Superior Edge, students like Roger can gain credit for many different experiences of their choosing that move them towards defined learning outcomes and then have their work validated through a Student Enrichment Transcript.

This article will describe highlights of the Superior Edge program, how it was developed at NMU, how it is making a difference for student participants, and issues to consider for anyone interested in establishing a similar program on their campus.

Superior Edge Will Count It!

In its simplest form, Superior Edge at NMU is a program that addresses what it takes to be a well-rounded individual in today’s society. The program allows its participants to put together an online portfolio of curricular and co-curricular experiences connected to learning outcomes. This portfolio is comprised of four areas (called Edges) which include: Citizenship, Diversity, Leadership, and Real World. Each edge requires 100 hours of commitment, is rooted in three or four outcomes, and requires participants to provide adequate reflection for each experience. Students are responsible for tracking their hours. Every student at NMU can join regardless of class standing, major, or GPA. Students can progress at their own pace and hours can be completed at any time during their enrollment and at any location. Students are given the freedom to complete one, two, three, or all four edges.

Developing Superior Edge at NMU

Like many schools, NMU already had a comprehensive leadership program that was successful but limited to a defined number of students. So staff began pondering how to make leadership and other developmental activities accessible to large numbers of students. This discussion was occurring at a time when a new president came on board and there was considerable faculty and student affairs staff interest in providing meaningful out-of-the-classroom and classroom-connected experiences for NMU students. A 25-member task force was created by the president and comprised of faculty, staff, and students. Over the course of the year, the committee met weekly and developed a program with defined learning outcomes in which any student enrolled in the University could participate. The role and importance of the Superior Edge task force was crucial. The many different perspectives resulted in a product that was far better than any one person could have conceived individually.

Widespread support from faculty for Superior Edge was realized due to the heavy faculty involvement from a broad spectrum of departments. Students provided excellent feedback about what was realistic for them to accomplish while still having the program remain meaningful. In addition to providing input for programmatic design, staff on the task force helped indentify the resources needed to implement Superior Edge. By continuing to keep students, faculty, and staff involved with the growth and development of Superior Edge, over 2,000 students are currently enrolled.

The goals of Superior Edge are to facilitate a well-rounded co-curricular experience for student participants, to set participating students apart from non-participants; to institutionalize a program that connects students, faculty, staff, and the community; and lastly, to offer a program that allows flexibility for today’s students who have very busy schedules.

Over 20 % of the NMU student body is involved with Superior Edge. The program receives support from numerous academic departments, is connected to various community organizations and businesses, and receives full backing from the administration. Superior Edge has become institutionalized at NMU through broad campus support and diverse involvement from a network of on- and off-campus support groups.

In short, Superior Edge works because the benefits can be perceived from all parties involved. Students’ progress is assessed against outcomes laid out at the program’s inception. Upon completion of an edge, staff members review individual reflection papers using a rubric that measures student learning. Many students appreciate the impact they have been able to make on their own personal development, on campus, and in the surrounding community. Finally, Superior Edge works with a busy schedule in a variety of settings at the level a student like Roger can choose.

The Competitive Edge

In the end, Superior Edge provides its graduates an advantage when pursuing further studies or entering the workforce. Graduate schools and employers recognize that they will be interviewing a candidate with well-rounded experiences. They will be meeting someone with leadership experience, who takes initiative, understands the role ethics plays in decision making, appreciates multiculturalism, and who is motivated to make a difference. Participants’ edge-packed resumes set them apart from other college graduates.

Superior Edge is proving to be a transformative experience for participating students as they discover that a meaningful life is built on a foundation of hard work, service, and the courage to take chances. The hours of involvement, volunteering, and commitment represent a priceless investment in confidence, self-esteem, and the future. While these experiences have always been available to a select group of “heavily involved” students, Superior Edge facilitates involvement to the broad mass of students, many of whom could not participate in structured co-curricular programs because of their schedules and life circumstances. It is meaningful to note that many participating students begin Superior Edge with a goal of completing a particular Edge but often expand into other “Edges” as well.

NMU recognizes every student who completes an Edge with a Student Enrichment Transcript. This transcript is maintained by the Registrar’s Office and accompanies the student’s academic transcript. The Student Enrichment Transcript differs from a traditional co-curricular transcript in that it is connected to specific learning outcomes.

College students everywhere are participating in many exciting and beneficial activities. Most of them are not fully aware of how they are learning and growing and what they are accomplishing. An effective way for students to appreciate the impact of their involvement is to have them reflect on their experiences in a structured way. In Superior Edge, students reflect on every activity logged and also discuss what and how they met one or more of the identified outcomes. Students reflect again when they complete an Edge by writing a reflection paper. Busy students are provided the opportunity to think about their experiences, and therefore, are better able to effectively communicate what they have gained from their participation.

Think Differently

If your campus is interested in developing a program like Superior Edge, consider the possibility of establishing learning outcomes that allow students to set their own path across varied experiences. Students have the freedom to take advantage of the many opportunities available in every aspect of their lives on and off campus that can, when connected to learning outcomes, help them develop an “Edge.” These can include summer jobs, internships, community involvement, and much more, including traditional co-curricular involvements. Being able to fit a program to what students are doing versus fitting students involvement to a specific program not only celebrates the diversity of student interests, but also allows for better overall student preparedness upon graduation.

Please send inquires and feedback to Rachel Harris at [email protected]. More information about the Superior Edge program is available at E-mails can also be sent to [email protected].

An Update on Learning Outcomes Focusing on the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS)

In 2009, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) celebrated 30 years of inter-associational collaboration in the development of standards of practice for quality programs and services leading to intentional student outcomes. CAS advances the self-assessment process for assessing student outcomes and using that assessment for program improvement. Directors from 36 member associations have developed and regularly revises 40 functional area standards using a consensus model of decision-making (See

In the 1990s, higher education called for the assessment of curriculum, co-curricular programs, and services largely for accountability and comparability. At the same time, accreditation associations uniformly began requiring institutions to designate student outcomes in order to assess their accomplishments on those self-designated outcomes.

But what outcomes should college seek to develop in students? What did educators expect? What did students, their families, employers, and the public need and expect?

The identification and articulation of desirable student outcomes expanded at the turn of the century. Since the first standards were released in the mid 1980s, CAS has advanced specific learning and developmental outcomes. The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) advanced the conversation with the student-centered focus in Greater Expectations (National Panel, 2002). Concurrently in 2003, the fifth edition of the CAS book of standards added a more clear focus on outcomes by specifying achievement indicators for the 16 learning and developmental outcomes that all functions should address. Shortly thereafter, Learning Reconsidered (NASPA/ACPA, 2004) and Learning Reconsidered2 (Keeling, 2006) advanced a taxonomy of seven outcomes. Subsequently, CAS convened a panel of faculty and student affairs experts to weave these Learning Reconsidered outcomes with the CAS set of 16 outcomes into the new set resulting in six broad categories that CAS calls learning and developmental outcome domains (CAS, 2009). Campuses are encouraged to use these 2009 outcomes as the latest best thinking in student affairs.

Each CAS domain contains related dimensions and each dimension links to specific examples. Those using a functional area standard must designate which outcome domains and dimensions their programs are designed to develop. Theprogram section of each CAS General Standard (2009) indicates:

The formal education of students, consisting of the curriculum and the co-curriculum, must promote student learning and development outcomes that are purposeful and holistic and prepare students for satisfying and productive lifestyles, work, and civic participation. The student learning and development outcome domains and their related dimensions are:

• knowledge acquisition, integration, construction, and application [Dimensions: understanding knowledge from a range of disciplines; connecting knowledge to other knowledge, ideas, and experiences; constructing knowledge; and relating knowledge to daily life]

• cognitive complexity [Dimensions: critical thinking; reflective thinking; effective reasoning; and creativity]

• intrapersonal development [Dimensions: realistic self-appraisal, self-understanding, and self-respect; identity development; commitment to ethics and integrity; and spiritual awareness ]

• interpersonal competence [Dimensions: meaningful relationships; interdependence; collaboration; and effective leadership]

• humanitarianism and civic engagement [Dimensions: understanding and appreciation of cultural and human differences; social responsibility; global perspective; and sense of civic responsibility]

• practical competence [Dimensions: pursuing goals; communicating effectively; technical competence; managing personal affairs; managing career development; demonstrating professionalism; maintaining health and wellness; and living a purposeful and satisfying life]. (p. 31)

These outcomes and specific examples can also be found in the 2009 book of standards (pp. 25-28) and at CAS advocates that the mission and purpose of each functional area transparently identify those outcomes it seeks to develop in students who engage in their programs or services. Data from self-assessment on those outcomes must then be used in program improvement and then the assessment cycle continues. Campuses are encouraged to map their environment and ensure that all outcomes are addressed.

National Alignment Update

Slightly before the Spelling’s Commission released their recommendations on accessibility, affordability, quality instruction, and accountability (Commission on the Future of Higher Education, 2006), the “big six” presidential higher education associations (e.g., ACE, AAC&U, CIC) released a letter of commitment indicating that higher education supported assessment of student learning outcomes among other assertions. Several exciting projects have subsequently followed. The growing national conversation seeks to balance assessment for accountability and assessment for improvement. A few of the resources to explore include:

AAC&U: The Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative advances four broad goals [knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative learning] and seven principles of excellence to meet those goals advocating the use of high impact practices largely identified through NSSE research ( The latest AAC&U project, Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) includes a set of rubrics to use as indicators of student attainment publically available at

Voluntary System of Accountability: In a move toward transparency, the VSA was established by Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU) and AAC&U as a site for campuses to publically post their outcome assessments in a college profile. All participating campuses must also agree to assess a core of outcomes (e.g. critical thinking) using the CAAP, MAPP, or CLA for comparability (See

National Institute for Learning Outcome and Assessment: Supported by the Lumina and other foundations, NILOA was launched in 2009 and is co-directed by George Kuh and Stan Ikenberry as a quality clearinghouse for assessment resources and model practices encouraging outcome transparency. Bookmark this site for the latest information on outcomes, high impact practices, and key resources (See

The New Leadership Alliance for Learning Outcomes and Accountability: The Alliance was formed by key associations and members of the Board of Directors of the Alliance include representatives from the American Council on Education (ACE), Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU), Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), Higher Learning Commission, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), and the Teagle Foundation. This group convened an invitation symposium in November to seek alignment among outcomes and assessment practices. I was very pleased to represent CAS at this symposium. Greg Roberts was also in attendance representing ACPA. I was pleased to address the assembly and make the point that students learn and develop across the whole college environment and that the whole environment should be assessed for their contributions to student outcomes. It is indeed very good that student affairs is in this national conversation (

New CAS Standards

The 7th edition of the CAS book was released August of 2009 and contains newly developed standards for Adult Learner Programs, Auxiliary Services, Dining Services, Graduate and Professional Student Programs, and Undergraduate Research Programs. CAS committees are currently developing new standards for Campus Security, Parent and Family Programs, Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, and Veterans Programs and Services anticipated in 2010 and 2011. The recent CAS Symposium on learning outcomes and assessment featured Carol Geary Schneider, AAC&U President, among the keynote speakers.

We are indeed fortunate that leaders in our field came together 30 years ago seeing the need for standards of practice and advancing self-assessment. You do not have to re-invent any wheels, you can use the wisdom of CAS to advance the work of your programs and services. You can order the 7th edition or a CD with all standards and self-assessment guides from . CAS will also have a booth at the ACPA annual convention and our executive director, former ACPA president and former CAS president, Phyllis Mable looks forward to assisting you.


Commission on the Future of Higher Education (2006). A test of leadership: Charting the future of U.S. higher education. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2009). CAS professional standards for higher education (7th ed.). Washington, DC: Author

Keeling, R. (Ed.). (2006). Learning reconsidered 2: Implementing a campus-wide focus on the student experience. American College Personnel Association, Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, Association of College Unions-International, National Academic Advising Association, National Association for Campus Activities, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association.

NASPA/ACPA (2004). Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience. Washington, DC: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the American College Personnel Association

National Panel (2002). Greater expectations: A new vision for learning as a nation goes to college. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. PDF available at

Please send inquiries and feedback to Susan Komives at [email protected].

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Race-Conscious Admission Alternatives

Since the 1960’s lawmakers, educators, and university administrators have debated race-based admission policies. During the past 50 years, many legislators and university administrators have worked to achieve equitable levels of minority student enrollment within American colleges and universities. Based on the goals, values, policy alternatives, the costs of each alternative, and the probability of meeting goals for each alternative, universities and university systems established race-based admission policies and practices (Hicklin, 2007, p. 332). There is an ongoing debate between those who support and those who oppose race-conscious admission processes intended to increase minority student enrollment. Race-based admission policies and programs are intended to give students of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to learn through the various perspectives of their classmates and enrich the learning environment, as well as to help to produce well-educated, well-trained students ready to take on leadership positions within the global business sector, government, and society (Bowen & Rudenstine, 2003).

According to Hicklin (2007) supporters of race-conscious admission processes argue that they give minority students an increased probability of gaining admission into an institution, and that without the consideration of race in admissions, colleges and universities will see a decrease in minority admissions (p. 331). Many supporters of the use of race-conscious admission processes argue that by eliminating race-conscious admission processes minority students will forgo attending college, or attend out-of-state institutions that conduct race-conscious admission processes. However, studies show that judicial and legislative restrictions on race-conscious admission processes do notreduce the number of minority students in a state. Instead, judicial and legislative restrictions redistribute minority students among less selective institutions where the quality of education is much lower (Hicklin, 2007, p.337).

In Gratz v. Bollinger et al (2000) the University of Michigan stressed the educational value of diversity. Diversity brings about a larger capacity for the expansion of knowledge through the diversity of perspectives, beliefs, and backgrounds. Despite the educational value of diversity, race-conscious admission processes still hardwire inequities into our system (Frye, 2004). For instance, some view these processes as reverse racism, because these processes put other students (i.e., Caucasian) at a disadvantage based on their race. For many years the pioneers of the civil rights movement fought for equality, and now many support a discriminatory system that is said to increase diversity of our colleges and universities.

I do not support the use of race-conscious admission processes. There are many alternatives to using such processes. Instead of using race as a factor in making admission decisions, institutional leaders, lawmakers, and educators can make a shared effort to target the needs of perspective minority students. The admission of minority students into an institution will not increase diversity at that institution because admission does not equal enrollment.

When deciding to choose a university, many students conduct a basic cost-benefit analysis that helps them to decide where they choose to enroll (Hicklin, 2007, p.333). Thus, diversity initiatives should focus on minority student enrollment, rather than admission. Students look at their perceived probability of gaining admission, the perceived benefits of the university, and the perceived costs that will be incurred to attend the university (Hicklin, 2007, p.333). Many agree that the minority student enrollment rate needs to be increased; how to do that is where the issue lies. Race-conscious admission policies target minority students’ perceived probability of gaining admission, rather than focusing on factors that lead to an actual enrollment. To increase minority student enrollment I urge colleges and universities to focus on minority students’ perception of benefits (e.g., academic programs, job opportunities, alumni networks, social/professional organizations) and perceived cost of attendance. By focusing on these factors, institutions can create narrowly tailored programs that will produce the desired outcome: increased minority enrollment.

Rather than relying on race-conscious admission policies, Lehmuller and Gregory (2005) describe other practices institutions can use to cultivate and attract well-prepared minority applicants:

  1. Establish support programs in high schools that better prepare minority and economically disadvantaged students for admission;
  2. Recruit from community colleges that have large minority populations;
  3. Place less emphasis on standardized tests, and more emphasis on personal interviews; and
  4. Increase consideration of economic factors in awarding financial aid (p.445)

While the goals of many institutions is to increase minority student enrollment, it is also important for them to recognize the value of student support, which is vital to the retention of students. Lehmuller and Gregory (2005) encourage student affairs administrators to provide support for all students with limited academic abilities or those who do not have strong support systems (e.g., family, clubs, sports teams, etc.) (p.445); this can be achieved by:

  1. Providing learning assistance programs for minority and first-generation college students;
  2. Providing proactive and appropriate advising from admission to graduation;
  3. Providing learning communities that stress academic support and cohort development across all races;
  4. Forming coalitions with other local institutions so students can have external support;
  5. Providing outreach and support to those taking developmental courses; and
  6. Working closely with community colleges to develop academic support for likely transfer students (Lehmuller & Gregory, 2005, p. 455-456).

These practices provide alternatives to using race when making admission decisions that will ultimately increase student enrollment and retention.

According to Bowen and Rudenstine (2003) the goal of higher education is to give students of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to learn through the various perspectives of their classmates, enrich the learning environment, and produce well-educated, well-trained students ready to take on leadership positions within business, government, and society. Institutions can achieve this goal if they implement programs that target student enrollment and retention instead of utilizing race-conscious admission processes. These types of programs do not put other non-minority students at a disadvantage, better meet the needs of minority students, and are more likely to graduate minority students who are well-prepared for leadership roles in society.


Bowen, W.G., & Rudenstine, N. C. (2003). Race-sensitive admissions: Back to basics. Chronicle of Higher Education. 49(22), p. B7.

Frye, J. (2004). Preparing MPA students for the public interest workplace. Journal of Public Affairs Education. 10(2), 165-167. Retrieved from:

Gratz v. Bollinger et al. 122 F. Supp. 2d 811 (E.D. Mich. 2000), No 97-75928, 2001 W.L. 315715 (E.D. Mich. April 3, 2001).

Hicklin, A. (2007). The effect of race-based admissions in public universities: Debunking the myths about Hopwood and Proposition 209. Public Administration Review. 67, 331-340. Retrieved from:

Lehmuller, P., & Gregory, D.E. (2005). Affirmative action: From before Bakke to after Grutter. NASPA Journal. 42(4), 430-459. Retrieved from:

Please send inquiries and feedback to Jammie Jelks at [email protected].

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20th Anniversary National Leadership Symposium Transforming Leadership Education for Significant Learning University of Richmond July 8th – 11th 2010

THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 2010 – 19:39

About the Symposium

The National Leadership Symposium is a professional development experience designed for faculty members, student affairs professionals and other educators involved with promoting college student leadership education. The program is coordinated by the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) and the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs (NCLP).

Given the intense learning environment of the Symposium (included required reading prior to attending), it is advised that participants have significant professional experience in leadership education. Registration is limited to 50 people.

20th Anniversary Theme

For the 20th anniversary year of the National Leadership Symposium, the focus will be on the intersections of student learning and leadership. Transformative documents such as Powerful Partnerships and Learning Reconsidered challenge student affairs professionals to consider themselves as educators who facilitate student learning and development. Yet many practitioners continue to view themselves primarily as programmers, as providers of services and activities. This outlook can be especially detrimental to those working in the area of leadership development, which is increasingly calling for educators skilled in the creation of engaged pedagogy, integrative learning experiences, and intentional learning communities.

The Symposium puts forth the following suppositions: that leadership can and should be learned; that the learning and development leadership capacities are inextricably intertwined; and that leadership educators can purposefully foster learning environments that help students integrate knowledge, skills, and experiences in meaningful ways. The 2010 Symposium will offer an overview of some of the ways learning theories can be applied to student leadership development. It will examine socialization to the role of leadership educator and the role of authenticity in education and the development of intentional learning communities. Select learning theories and their implications for leadership learning will be presented. Strategies for constructing leadership-related learning outcomes and assessing leadership learning will also be discussed.

Participants in the 2010 National Leadership Symposium will:

  • Learn how to recognize the qualities and attributes of today’s student learners.
  • Create environments that promote meaningful and measurable learning.
  • Foster a learning environment that will promote transformative learning in the context of leadership.
  • Develop a network of practitioners, educators, and scholars that can be used to augment their current understanding of leadership.


  • Dr. Dennis (Denny) Roberts – Assistant Vice President for Faculty and Student Services of Qatar Foundation
  • Dr. Stephen Quaye – Assistant Professor, College Student Personnel, University of Maryland
  • Dr. Jillian Kinzie – Associate Director, Center for Postsecondary Research & NSSE Institute,  Indiana University System

Program Chairs:

  • Dr. Julie Owen -Assistant Professor, New Century College, George Mason University
  • Dr. Lucy Croft – Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, University of North Florida


  • Early Registration Begins March 2010

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ACPA Thoughts – The Convention

Darren Pierre
University of Maryland

I remember vividly my first experience at ACPA’s annual convention last spring in Nashville. In a way, I see my, now two, convention experiences as markers on my time in graduate school. My first annual meeting came with the excitement of both attending my first national convention and coordinating a large scale trip with members of my Master’s cohort. This was a feat to say the least! This past year’s convention came with the similar excitement of the first, but this time it was nervous excitement with ideas fluttering in my mind that my future employer may be among the participants.

I arrived at Placement on Friday afternoon after touring parts of Indianapolis such as Founder’s Row which houses several national and international fraternity and sorority headquarters. The Placement volunteers were very friendly, which was no different than many of the other Association members I had had a chance to meet. Like many of my colleagues, I did the internal debate “should I or should I not go through Placement orientation?” I made the wise decision to take a tour of placement and found the chance to interact with other excited (and nervous) candidates rewarding. Each of us practiced our career counseling skills on one another which proved very beneficial in the interview process.

I enjoyed speaking with potential employers who hailed from New York to Washington. Hearing employers speak from a diverse set of institutions but sharing similar stories of the rewarding experience they have had with students was phenomenal. The days were long in the Placement, but it gave me a better understanding of what previous candidates referred to as the adventures in Placement.

When I first began setting up interviews for the conference, I made the deliberate decision to limit my interviews so I could enjoy the conference experience. I attended a great session on social justice in higher education. With the help of two colleagues in the field I was able to present a session at ACPA on navigating your way in the field of higher education. The room I presented in was full of new professionals like me sharing similar experiences about their first formative years in higher education.

When I attend ACPA, I don’t just enjoy it for the informative sessions and educational speakers, but also the chance to reconnect with others in the field. I have heard others speak about that the annual Convention as a place where long lasting friendships are built. I agree. I suppose one of the underlying benefits that should be part of ACPA’s mission is my belief that in the work the Association does, the organization actually creates a group of friends centered around the professional ideals of bettering the collegiate experience. Whether it was conversing with friends or strangers about job interviews, or having follow-up conversation over coffee about an intriguing speaker, the annual Convention has proven for two years now to be a rewarding experience. I look forward to sharing again at the 2007 Convention. See you in Orlando!

Student Academic Freedom: Politicizing the Classroom

Robert M. Hendrickson
Professor of Education and Associate Dean
The Pennsylvania State University

As the 2004 Presidential campaign developed, concerns began to emerge regarding student academic freedom in the classroom. Conservatives alleged that the higher education professoriate continues to be predominately liberal and this liberal bias taints their teaching. They maintain that students feel intimidated to express their political beliefs either in the classroom or on campus for fear they will be punished through the grading system. This focus on liberal bias has propelled student academic freedom into the political agenda of many activists, and has led to new organizations and some state legislatures attempts to rectify the problem. While I am not aware of any litigation being brought surrounding this issue, as the 2006 congressional election campaign heats up there certainly is potential for campus controversy (and possible litigation) over faculty classroom behavior. Even though this issue stems from the academic side of the institution, student affairs administrators need to understand the implications of this issue as they often must deal with student complaints and other forms of activism (e.g., protests, walk-outs, and websites).

The fundamental principle of academic freedom is that the community of scholars must be free to employ scholarly standards, without prior restraint or fear of repercussion, to make decisions about the quality of scholarship and teaching. “The ideal of academic freedom includes the assumption that [people] working on the fringes of established knowledge will often dissent from the truths of the majority, will appear unreasonable, eccentric, or disloyal, or will be unable to explain to others their motives for pursuing a particular line of effort” (Caplow & McGee, 1958, p. 222). Faculty members and students, although they are not directly included under the tenets of academic freedom as set forth by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), should be free from political, ideological, or religious constraints in the pursuit of truth in their academic studies.

Academic freedom as defined in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, holds three basic tenets of academic freedom are:

  1. “Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of results subject to adequate performance of their academic duties, …”;
  2. “Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should not introduce into their teaching controversial subject matter which has no relationship to their subject.”;
  3. “College and university teachers are citizens, members of the learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.”

The third tenet also states that faculty members need to be accurate in their statements and identify their faculty title when they are speaking in their field of expertise. When speaking as a citizen on matters outside their field they should not use their faculty title, as that would imply that they are speaking as an expert rather than just as a citizen. The second tenet assumes that teaching will follow the “principle of neutrality” where a diversity of perspectives are present, so the student can make a judgment on the issue and there is no attempt by the faculty member to indoctrinate students. The current classroom controversy has developed debate about the neutrality and non-indoctrination principles. Some conservative activists and legislators have claimed that professors with a liberal bias dominate the college and university faculty (based on some recent surveys, it is true that a majority of faculty claim to be liberal/democrats), and that bias is clearly reflected in the classes they teach and the performance grades they award. The following are a few examples of how the controversy is manifested:

Under the directive of David Horowitz and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, several state legislatures have considered an academic bill of rights. The American Association of University Professors on March 4, 2003, posted an article on their website discussing the movement in Colorado calling for an Academic Bill of Rights entitled: Academic Bill of Rights. Advocates for an Academic Bill of Rights recommended that in order to maintain the AAUP principle of neutrality, higher education institutions need to develop faculty hiring policies “with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives”. Since diversity is interpreted by the advocates as an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, or conservatives and liberals, the ultimate effect of such a statement would be to politicize faculty appointments in the academy. The AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, after careful analysis, found that one of the fundamental concepts of academic freedom is violated when decisions on who to appoint, and the quality of scholarship and teaching, are not based on professional standards within the discipline assessed by the community of scholars. They concluded that the Academic Bill of Rights “impose administrative and legislative oversight on the professional judgment of faculty, to deprive professors of the authority necessary for teaching,” and prohibit decisions necessary to advance knowledge (p. 3).

On March 2, 2004 the AAUP issued another article concerning advertisements appearing in campus newspapers about an organization, ” Students for Academic Freedom.”. The advertisement solicits students to report professors who try to sway the class to adopt the political stand of the faculty member. The AAUP has a history of discouraging faculty from bringing controversial matters with no relationship to the particular topic area of the course to the classroom. If a problem like this were to arise, the expectation is that the performance reviews would address this problem. However, Students for Academic Freedom attempts to prevent political controversy in the classroom where such political statements are not germane to the topic of the course. More specifically, they are attempting to keep faculty comments about the war in Iraq and George W. Bush out of classrooms where course content has nothing to do with “this war or this presidency.”  The AAUP statement contends that “[c]ontrary to defending academic freedom, the project is inimical to it and, indeed, to the very idea of a liberal education”.

In 2005 the Pennsylvania legislature passed a resolution to establish a committee of legislators to investigate the political bias of professors, as it is manifested in the classroom at public colleges and universities in the state. The committee traveled around the state holding hearings on various campuses to determine the extent of indoctrination of students by faculty in the courses they taught. At the final hearing in June 2006, Dr. Peter Garland stated that, in the past five years, only 14 complaints have been filed from the 107,000 students at 14 state universities belonging to the State System of Higher Education. (Chronicle of Higher Education, Today’s News 6/1/2006). Dr. Blannie Bowen reported that only 13 complaints have emerged over the past 5 years from the 80,000 students of the multi-campus Pennsylvania State University. He noted that the University Faculty Senate has clarified the policy called “Resolution of Student Classroom Problems” to provide students with a process to adjudicate complaints surrounding violations of academic freedom and grading. (Chronicle, Today’s News 6/1/2006). The legislative committee concluded there was minimal classroom controversy and, on the rare occasions that a complaint had been filed, that institution had adequate policies to resolve those concerns.

As the election campaign of 2006 gets into full swing, it would be wise to review the institution’s policies on student classroom controversy (see AAUP Policy on Students Rights and Freedoms) making sure that faculty are able to adequately defend themselves against false accusations, and students are adequately protected from retaliation. If such policies are nonexistent, or inadequate, the academic governance organization of the institution should be encouraged to develop or refine the policy. With a better understanding of the issues surrounding academic freedom rights of students and faculty, student affairs administrators can assist the faculty in the development of policies that provide students with a venue to resolve complaints. Student affairs administrators need to:

  • Be familiar with the institution’s policies on student classroom controversies; and
  • Know the resources for a student to initiate a formal complaint.

Ultimately, the responsibility for developing and maintaining student classroom policies lies with the faculty, with the goal of preventing the politicizing of the institution and its academic programs.


  • Caplow, T., & McGee, R. (1958). The academic marketplace. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press.