SueAnn Strom, Ph.D., will join American Humanics, Inc. as vice president for academic partnerships effective January 1, 2006.  In accepting the position, Strom will step down as Associate Professor of Higher Education, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a position she has held since 2000.

Based in Kansas City, American Humanics is a national alliance that brings nonprofits, universities and community partners together to educate, prepare, and certify professionals to strengthen and lead nonprofit organizations.  As more students come to college with the desire to “make a difference,” American Humanics is the only national organization addressing the growing need for dedicated and experienced entry-level professional employees to manage programs and eventually lead and manage nonprofit organizations.

Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership

Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership

Susan R. Komives
University of Maryland
John Dugan
University of Maryland

The importance of college student leadership development, attention to civic engagement, and the pervasive role of assessing college outcomes have recently converged. After decades of college leadership development activities being largely focused on positional leaders, the last 20 years of leadership efforts have led to leadership majors, minors, certificate programs, a range of co-curricular experiences, rope courses, service-learning, and numerous other opportunity points for many college students to learn about leadership and focus on their own leadership development (Zimmerman-Oster & Burkhardt, 1999). Enhancing students’ leadership efficacy is increasingly a widely embraced college outcome (NASPA/ACPA, 2004), indeed, several institutions are identifying leadership as their Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) in their regional re-accreditation.

Partially funded by a grant from the ACPA Educational Leadership Foundation and the NASPA Foundation, the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs (NCLP) and a University of Maryland research team are conducting a national multi-institutional study of leadership to assess college students’ leadership outcomes and the environmental experiences that contribute to leadership development. Colleges often use specific models of leadership development, but general measures of leadership studies have made it difficult to truly test specific models (Posner, 2004). This study uses the social change model of leadership (SCM), one of the most widely used co-curricular leadership theoretical frames (HERI, 1996).  Developed by an ensemble of leadership educators with an Eisenhower grant led by Co-PIs Alexander and Helen Astin, the SCM identifies seven values clustered into three groups (i.e., individual, group, and community) along with the transcendent value of change. The set of individual values includes consciousness of self, congruence, and commitment; the set of group values includes common purpose, collaboration, and controversy with civility; and the community set of values includes citizenship. Tyree (1998) operationalized the SCM in her award-winning dissertation and developed the Socially Responsible Leadership Scale (SRLS). A revised scale from this dissertation will be utilized in this study (Appel-Silbaugh, 2005).

The research design is based on Astin’s (1991) college impact model of inputs-environment-outcomes (IEO). By controlling for pre-college experiences, attitudes, and student characteristics, researchers can determine the contribution of various college experiences on leadership outcomes.  College experiences to be examined include the nature of organization involvement, leadership roles, experience with mentoring, study abroad, on campus or off campus work, service learning, and exposure to diversity. In addition, the study will assess each participating institution enabling researchers to develop a taxonomy of leadership programs and determine what combination of program elements may enhance the students’ leadership development outcomes. Subsamples in the study will receive additional items on the nature of campus work, experiences in activism, the student government experience, cognitive development, and factors that operationalize the leadership identity development model (Komives, Owen, Longerbeam, Mainella, & Osteen, 2005). Participating campuses may also be including a comparison sample and individual campus questions.

An invitation for participating campuses was posted on the NCLP and ACPA Commission for Student Involvement listservs in the Summer of 2005. After completing an informational survey, 55 campuses were invited to join the study. Campuses include a range of institutional types including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, women’s colleges, religious colleges, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and community colleges. Over 180,000 undergraduates will be invited to participate in this web-based survey between mid-January and mid-March 2006. ACPA and NASPA 2006 Convention programs will present the details of the survey design and methodology. For more information on the study, visit the NCLP web site at:

Findings from the study will contribute to a normative database for continued use of the SRLS and establish base line data for leadership outcomes in diverse institutions. Identification of campus experiences that contribute to leadership development will aid leadership educators to design intentional interventions that more accurately influence leadership outcomes.


  • Appel-Silbaugh, C. (2005). The Revision of Socially Responsible Leadership Scale (SRLS-R). Unpublished report. College Park, MD: National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.
  • Astin, A. W. (1991). Assessment for excellence: the philosophy and practice of assessment and evaluation in higher education. New York: Macmillan.
  • Higher Education Research Institute. (1996). A social change model of leadership development: Guidebook version III. College Park, MD: National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.
  • Komives, S. R., Owen, J. E., Longerbeam, S, Mainella, F. C., & Osteen, L. (2005). Developing a leadership identity: A grounded theory. Journal of College Student Development, 46, 593-611.
  • National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and American College Personnel Association. (2004). Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience. Washington, DC.
  • Posner, B. Z. (2004). A leadership development instrument for students: Updated. Journal of College Student Development, 45, 443 – 456.
  • Tyree, T. M. (1998). Designing an instrument to measure the socially responsible leadership using the social change model of leadership development. Dissertation Abstracts International, 59 (06), 1945. (AAT 9836493)
  • Zimmerman-Oster, K., & Burkhardt, J. C. (1999). Leadership in the making: Impact and insights from leadership development programs in U.S. colleges and universities. Battle Creek, MI: W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Cultivate and Support Good Research!

Susan R. Jones
Director, Core Council for the Generation and Dissemination of Knowledge

The generation and dissemination of knowledge is central to the mission, values, and activities of ACPA. Whether through our highly regarded and exemplary publications such as the Journal of College Student Development, About Campus, the books published through ACPA’s Books and Media, or the scholarly presentations at national and regional conferences, ACPA leads the way in promoting and supporting the cutting edge scholarship in the field.

Strong publications and presentations come from good research. And good research requires willing respondents and participants. As you know, ACPA works very hard not to bombard our members with email messages. However, as we have moved in to the age of web-based surveys and almost total reliance on the internet for communication, nearly all of the requests that come to the national office for access to ACPA members for research are for internet-dependent strategies of communication. A task force appointed by then-President Jeanne Steffes worked hard to develop policies and procedures for those making research requests to membership. These have been approved and are now available on the ACPA web site, under the research link. We hoped to create policies and procedures that were clear, fair, and accessible so as to support research efforts, but also to put some safeguards in place. We have received a number of requests for access to members for research purposes, each of which meets our criteria. We have been reluctant however, to send each request out via email or in the ACPA E-lert, which then often results in significant delays for researchers, who often are working on carefully planned timetables.

To facilitate research efforts of our members, we will include an e-mail announcement with research invitations only or, depending on the timing, include a research announcement in the monthly E-lert. These will only occur whenever we have ACPA-approved research requests that cannot be incorporated into the ACPA Master Calendar. Please note that the current research policy only allows for three ACPA-approved research studies per semester. This helps ensure ACPA members are not unreasonably burdened with research participation requests. We know the addition of an announcement with research invitations only will mean more email from ACPA, but hope you will think kindly of requests to participate in research as this is how good scholarship is produced. Thanks in advance for your support and cooperation.

Ethics in the Real World

Jane Fried
Chair of the Ethics Committee, Associate Professor
Central Connecticut State University

The most widely discussed approach to ethics in student affairs is based on the notion that ethical principles can be used to analyze all ethical dilemmas and determine the most appropriate response to ethical dilemmas (Kitchener, 1985). This approach assumes that principles exist objectively, beyond the changing physical and cultural conditions of human life, and that they are stable and unchanging regardless of circumstances. Recent developments in cognitive science and philosophy have revealed that the model of thinking and acting which shapes the principled approach is both incomplete and inadequate to ethical living in a physical, temporal and multicultural world (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). The principled approach was developed in the context of Cartesian philosophy in which the mind and the body were presumed to be separate entities. The mind was considered a nonphysical entity whose sole purpose was to think. In this model, breakfast foods and other physical conditions presumably had no influence on thinking. We now know that this is not accurate. If it were, there would be no need for school breakfast and lunch programs because hunger would not affect thinking.

In the past 25 years, cognitive scientists, using new forms of inquiry ranging from brain scans to language analysis, have determined that thinking is far more complex than Descartes realized and that the brain operates by using embodied metaphors rather than logic (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). In other words, we don’t think the way we think we think. We think in metaphors and all metaphors are based on our experience as human beings who live in physical environments that involve all kinds of relationships. Our images of the ways in which those relationships work shapes the way we think about ethics. Principles do not give us enough guidance in the ethical domain. We also need to think about virtuous behavior and the community context in which the behavior occurs.

Aristotle was the first to discuss the connections between ethics, relationships and community. He wrote that developing virtue or habits of ethical behavior in relationships is the best way for an individual to realize his (sic) full potential and help others to do the same. “Aristotle’s ethics is thus about nurturance, the nurturance necessary to help a person become a well–balanced, temperate, fully actualized human being” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999, p.322). Ethics, relationships and community are interwoven and dependent on context – the conditions which exist in the community. Discussions of personal, ethical virtues diminished when principles became the major focus of ethical discourse. Principles, which are formal and unchanging, reflect Kant’s idea of thought as pure and disembodied (Johnson1993). Principle–oriented thinking has shaped Western ideas about ethics for more than two centuries. More recently, discussions of virtue have reappeared in the philosophy of the embodied mind and in the ethical discourse of the helping professions (Meara, Day & Schmidt, 1996). Feminist, relational ethics (Gilligan, 1988) as well as Buddhist ethics (Saddhatissa, 2003) also emphasize the role of virtue and the cultivation of habits of compassion. Developing the virtue of compassionate relationships humanizes and pragmatizes the use of principles which are far less flexible than the virtuous habits of thinking and behaving that are required to apply them to actual situations. The recent review of the ACPA statement of ethics was initiated because of our increased awareness of the Eurocentric bias in principle focused ethics as well as changes in the wider ethical discourse. These changes support a more complex, three dimensional, embodied approach to ethics (Fried, 2003; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999).

Because humans think metaphorically and live in an embodied world, ethical thinking must take into account a wide range of variables that characterize our physical and socio–cultural worlds. These variables include time (temporality), personal perspective (phenomenology), cultural values and norms, beliefs about legitimate sources of knowledge and assumptions about the range of choice that we have (or don’t have) when we make decisions (Fried, 2003). It is difficult to sustain the complex thought that this new approach to ethical thinking requires. The following example is an illustration:

As a senior in college, a student supervised the crew that set up equipment for programs in the student center. One such program was a career fair. When the student applied to a graduate program in student affairs, he described himself as being in charge of this career fair. In a reference call, the graduate faculty member asked the professional student center supervisor to evaluate the applicant’s role in the fair. The supervisor explained that the applicant’s role was to set up furniture and supervise a student work crew. He had nothing to do with inviting employers, setting up interview schedules or any of the programmatic elements of the fair. How should the faculty member think about the ethics of using the applicant’s description of his involvement in the career fair as part of his portfolio for admission?

Using the three dimensional model of ethical decision making, the professor considered the following issues: Principles: 1) Doing good/ not doing harm – Was anyone harmed or did anyone benefit from his representation of his work? 2) Fairness – Was his description of his role a fair representation of his actual contribution? If he were admitted on the basis of his perception, would that be fair to another applicant who might not then be admitted? 3) Veracity(Fried, 2003). Was his description of his role corroborated by his supervisor? Did he tell the truth as others might understand the truth? Virtues: 1) Prudence, respect and beneficence – The faculty member wanted to treat the student with respect, give him the benefit of the doubt and keep his best interests in mind. Might the applicant benefit from a conversation with the faculty member about his perception and description of his role? 2) Integrity– The faculty member had to maintain consistent standards in order to be fair to all applicants. Would failure to address the inconsistency in the two descriptions be considered an approach that demonstrated integrity? Context: 1)Phenomenology – What was this applicant’s sincere point of view? Did he really believe that he organized the fair? 2) Temporality: How quickly did the admission decision have to be made? Was there enough time for a conference with the applicant to clarify the issue and the conflicting perspectives about his role? Based on consideration of all these elements, what would be an ethical response to this student’s graduate school application?

Think about an ethical dilemma you have recently faced lately as a student affairs professional or graduate student. Consider the principles that we generally use to make ethical decisions. Now think about your own thought process (metacognition) and look for the reasoning used as you apply those principles to your dilemma. You will probably find that you use an embodied, metaphoric approach. You imagine what the persons involved in your dilemma probably felt. You wonder how you would think and feel and how you would want to be treated in the same situation. If you have a relationship with the persons involved, you consider the impact of any decision you might make on the long term relationship. If the other people come from a different culture, are of a different gender or sexual orientation or a different economic class, you are probably stretching your imagination to put yourself into their place. You are using a three dimensional model to make ethical decisions, but you are probably conscious of only the first dimension since that is the one most often used in Western civilization.

The forthcoming revision of the ACPA code of ethics is based on the approach described above. Because this approach requires a greater awareness of the complexity of our own thought processes in ethical decision–making, using the revised code will probably provoke some complicated discussion in classrooms and staff meetings. That is as it should be. Ethics and ethical decision–making are rarely simple. When we are faced with a choice between a good alternative and a bad alternative, making the choice is simple. Difficult ethical decisions arise when we are faced with a choice of two good alternatives and don’t immediately recognized which one represents the greater good. All professions adopt ethical codes and most have procedures for ethics education and resolution of ethical conflicts. ACPA is fortunate to have had an excellent code and accompanying enforcement procedures since 1993. The forthcoming revision also addresses current campus realities by including descriptions of standards for management of electronic records and acknowledging cultural complexities. This is a code which all ACPA members are expected to use for guidance in addressing ethical dilemmas. I believe that we can all be proud of this document. I would like to thank the committee that revised the code, Dr. Julie Bell Elkins for serving as liaison to the Executive Council and the Executive Council for working together to create a code that can support our profession in facing the incredible complexity of the 21st century on our campuses.


  • Fried, J. (2003). Ethical standards and principles. In S. Komives and D. Woodard. Student services: A handbook for the profession. (4th ed.) (pp. 107– 127), San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  • Gilligan, C. (1988). Remapping the moral domain: New images of self in relationship. In C. Gilligan, J. Ward & J. Taylor (Eds.) Mapping the moral domain. (3–20) Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Kitchener, K. (1985). Ethical Principles and Ethical Decisions in Student Affairs. In H. Canon and R. Brown. (Eds.) Applied Ethics in Student Services. New Directions for Student Services. #30. (17–30) San Francisco: Jossey–Bass.
  • Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. NY: Basic books.
  • Saddhatissa, H. (2003). Buddhist ethics. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

Ten Ways to Enhance your 2006 ACPA Annual Convention Experience!

Kirsten Freeman Fox
University of Maryland

Spring’s arrival means many of us will soon pack our bags for ACPA’s Annual Convention. A large convention such as ACPA can sometimes seem overwhelming. This compilation of helpful hints and strategies may assist you in your planning to make the most of your Convention experience.

  1. Before you Leave, Be PreparedMake sure to tie up loose ends at work before you leave! While internet access is available it can be crowded; plus, with so much activity going on at the Convention, who has time for work! Take time to talk with your employer about mutual expectations. What do they want you to take from the convention? On what are specific topics or issues should you be seeking to attend sessions? As you pack your suitcase, don’t forget business cards, a notepad, your Convention booklet, travel materials, and your hotel and conference confirmations.
  2. Plan AheadWith the convention schedule on-line, it is so easy to plan ahead! Just go to and click on ‘Annual Conventions.’ What sessions look good to you? What topic areas can you apply to your current position? Which receptions might you check out? Highlight program sessions of interest including the room location and time of each session. You don’t want to be flipping through the program right before a session.
  3. Early Birds Catch the WormThink about registering for a Pre-Convention Workshop. Obtain valuable information and explore new ideas during an in-depth workshop. The half-day and full-day programs take place on Saturday and Sunday before the opening gala. There are over 20 different workshops to choose from. Prices and program abstracts can be found at
  4. Get Involved in Something NewThe convention offers something for Student Affairs professionals at every level! Are you a graduate student or new professional? If so, think about putting your knowledge of theory and practice to use by participating in the Graduate and New Professional Case Study. For more seasoned professionals, consider the Senior Practitioner Program (SPP). Think about volunteering at placement or attending a standing committee meeting. If you like to sing and perform for others, then contemplate being part of the ACPA AIDS Memorial Choir.
  5. Key to the Field…and it Just so Happens They are Convention Speakers!The Annual Convention offers a variety of major speakers. Take advantage of them all, including Dr. Merrow of PBS and narrator of “Declining by Degrees,” to round out your convention experience.
  6. Make New Friends, but Keep the Old.It is definitely appropriate to network during the convention. Meet business contacts and new colleagues at program sessions and receptions; together you can share strategies and techniques and learn new skills. In your pursuit of new knowledge, take time to extend conversations beyond convention sessions. However, don’t forget your roots — show pride in former institutions and take time to catch up with old friends you do not see as often. Take advantage of breakfast and lunch time to connect with former classmates or staff. You will see current colleagues and classmates almost daily when you return home, so take advantage of conversations with former colleagues and future connections.
  7. Think of Each Day as a Separate “Day Trip.”No one ever claimed that they caught up on sleep at ACPA! Days are packed full and often extend well into the late evening. Make sure to eat breakfast before your first session. Early morning workouts and fun runs/walks with the ACPA Wellness Commission is a great way to greet the day! As you prepare to leave your room for a good portion of the day, fill your briefcase, satchel, backpack, or shoulder bag with business cards, your previously highlighted/earmarked program, pen and paper, mints, money for meals, note cards to write inspiring notes to colleagues going through placement, a snack and a bottle of water. Wear comfortable shoes especially if you are walking back and forth in placement.
  8. Make the Most of Each SessionKnow which sessions you plan to attend ahead of time. Map out sessions of personal and professional interest. What are the goals and objectives you hope to take away from the session? Make sure you are aware of your own goals, as well as your institutions/organizations goals before the session. Come ready to explore possibilities and new ideas while focusing on how to apply those strategies in your own practice. Enter each session prepared to share your own experiences, but also to listen to others’. Even experienced professionals can learn new ideas. And yes, ask questions! Finally, stay until the end of the session and complete an evaluation.
  9. Meet the Cruise DirectorWhile thought-provoking and educational, the Convention is also always enjoyable. Take time to explore Indianapolis. Check out all of the resources and products in the Exhibit Hall and walk away with some cool give-aways! Learn more about other opportunities ACPA has to offer at the Convention Carnival and take time to experience art, music, and dance of the Cultural Fest. Plus, all those fun receptions! So much to do, so little time!
  10. It’s not Over when It’s Over.The closing speaker has spoken, you have checked out of your room, and the Convention is over. Upon your return to campus, think about what you will do next. How you will implement what you learned? Ask follow up questions to session presenters through email. Show appreciation and take time to thank presenters and new business contacts. Relay information and new knowledge to your staff at you institution/organization. Decide which new possibilities are worth exploring. Within your own professional development, might it be time to get more involved within the Association? Consider getting involved with a standing committee or volunteering as a member of the planning committee for next year’s Annual Convention. After all, it is never too early to start preparing for 2007 in Orlando!

This is a reprint of an article in the winter 2005 edition of Developments. Dates and other minor changes were made to reflect 2006 Convention.

Disciplinary Due Process in Sexual Assault Cases: Balancing the Rights of the Victim and the Rights of Accused.

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

In recent years, sexual assault on campus, a topic not historically discussed in public, received national attention and was openly discussed on college campuses. Concerned that a significant number of assaults went unreported due to policies and procedures that discouraged reporting, colleges and universities across the country developed programs to educate students about date rape and sexual assault and develop policies and procedures that encouraged and supported victims who chose to report assaults. Many institutions not only instituted educational programs discussing what constituted rape and sexual assault, but attempted to protect the rights of the accuser while providing for the due process rights of the accused. Some of these efforts created campus controversies that at times received national attention. For example, Columbia University developed a policy to increase the willingness of victims to bring forward an action against their alleged assailant. The policy sought to protect the victim from confronting the alleged assailant by denying the accused the right to cross examine witnesses, to hear the testimony of the accuser or to receive a transcript of the proceedings among others. The University had developed educational programs for the hearing committee which had the potential of biasing the committee against the accused. While there was much campaigning for the policy change, few on the Columbia campus seemed to be paying much attention until a group, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) a conservative organization, began to call attention to the loss of the due process rights of the accused. Eventually liberal groups such as the ACLU and The Village Voice joined in the fight to protect the due process rights of the accused (Brownstein, 2001). Columbia University would eventually rethink its policy and instituted the due process procedures required for the accused to receive a fair hearing. Two more recent cases show how institutions are attempting to find that balance between the rights of the victim and the rights of the accused.

The first case, Theriault v. University of Southern Maine (2004), involved a female student who filed a sexual assault complaint against her alleged assailant and the hearing committee found the accused not guilty. The female student sued in Federal Court claiming that the manner in which the disciplinary hearing was conducted violated her constitutional right to due process and equal protection. She alleged that the faculty adviser for the hearing committee was biased against her, in that he refused to recuse himself after she complained, his questioning was slanted against her (e.g., using the term “love-making” once during the hearing), and he asked more questions of the alleged assailant’s witnesses than the complainant’s witnesses. The court found that there were no equal protection or due process rights where the loss of educational opportunity was due only to the student’s perceived subjective loss as a result of the decision of the hearing committee. She also unsuccessfully brought state claims of defamation, breach of contract, conspiracy, and negligence.

The Court’s discussion of the plaintiff’s allegations provides some good examples of the issues to be considered when balancing the victim’s rights against the due process rights of the accused. In this particular case these issues surrounded the alleged bias of the hearing committee faculty advisor. The plaintiff alleged that the faculty adviser, Mr. Nye, was biased because when he was a school administrator a number of years earlier there had been a conflict between her father (a teacher) and Mr. Nye. The Court found that the plaintiff was not able to prove that Mr. Nye had a bias against her. “….[T]he plaintiff has not shown that a reasonable faculty advisor in Nye’s place would have known that the use of the term ‘love-making’ one time instead of ‘sexual activity’ or “having sex” was unconstitutional” (Theriault v. University of Southern Maine, 2004). The plaintiff also alleged that Nye when questioning the university investigator of the incident “framed the issue as one where [the plaintiff] wanted to engage in some sexual conduct with [the alleged assailant], but things got carried away” (Theriault v. University of Southern Maine, 2004). According to the Court, the plaintiff’s characterization of Nye’s question was not accurate, and they noted that in supplied transcript of the hearing, Nye asked the following: “… is your interpretation that [the plaintiff] was interested in having sex and got herself into a situation in which she reached the point that she did not want to go beyond but [the alleged assailant] forced the issue?” The Court found that question implied that if the accused “forced the issue” he would be guilty of sexual assault. Further, the Court noted that Nye’s asking fewer questions of the plaintiff’s witnesses than those of the accused did not in any way indicate discrimination or bias against the plaintiff based on her gender. The Court found that the hearing was conducted in a fundamentally fair way that did not exhibit any undue bias towards the female student bring the complaint. In finding that the plaintiff did not have due process or equal protection rights violated under the Constitution, the Court reasoned that since if she did not prevail in her claim she would not be denied a property right in the form of the denial of an educational opportunity. The case demonstrated that for judicial system administrators it is important to be sensitive to the needs of the victim without compromising the due process rights of the accused.

The second case dealt with the due process rights of the accusedIn Gomes v. University of Maine System (2005), two male students were accused of sexually assaulting a female student, which is a violation of the student conduct code. The school’s hearing committee found the two males responsible for sexual assault and suspended them for one full year. The students, maintaining that the hearing process was fatally flawed, filed suit in the Federal District Court of Maine claiming violations of due process, breach of contract, and related torts. The Court noted in its decision that this is not a case about whether a sexual assault occurred, but rather whether the process to determine guilt or innocence of the two males followed appropriate due process procedures guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and was fundamentally fair. The decision draws a distinction between the more flexible due process requirements for college and university disciplinary hearings as opposed to the rigid requirements of a court proceeding. According to the Court the following are required in academic setting: “1). The student be advised of the charges against him; 2) he must be informed of the nature of the evidence against him; 3.) he must be given an opportunity to be heard in his own defense; and 4) he must not be punished except on the basis of substantial evidence” (Gomes v. University of Maine System, 2005). Citing other case law the Gomes Court also noted that: “1) the student must be permitted the assistance of a lawyer, at least in major disciplinary proceedings; 2) he must be permitted to confront and to cross-examine the witnesses against him; and 3) he must be afforded the right to an impartial tribunal, which must make written findings” (legal citations omitted). It is expected that these basic rudiments of fair play will be followed to protect the student’s constitutional right to due process.

In this particular case, the accused students claimed that due process was violated when they were not provided with the list of witnesses against them until the day of the hearing, that the University denied them access to the police reports surrounding the investigation of the assault, and that they were not provided the victim’s medical records until the day of the hearing. On all of these claims, a summary judgment was granted in favor of the University. Citing other case law the Court noted that the University could have withheld the police reports from both the complainant and the accused and survived a due process challenge. Upon review of the evidence, the Court found that it was the District Attorney’s Office that provided the complainant with the complete police report containing alleged inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s interview statements. Failure of the accused to request the documents from the DA’s office in a timely way would not yield a due process violation by the University. Further, not the full police report but a summary of the results of the police investigation which both parties received, was used by the hearing committee to reach their decision in the matter. The plaintiffs also contested that having the complainant seated in such a way that they could see only her back and profile inhibited their ability to cross-examine the witness. The Gomes Court found no impediment to cross-examination in the way the complainant was seated in the hearing room, even if their attorney moved to another location in the hearing room to see her facial expressions during her testimony. That legal counsel chose to move to a different location during testimony was not a deprivation of the accused students’ right to counsel. The Court also found based on previous case law (citations omitted) that where accused students were able to hear the testimony of all witnesses against them there would be no need to have a witness list and the contents of their testimony provided in advance of the hearings. The judicial requirements of discovery and the deposition of witnesses have not been required in academic due process. On the issue of the timely receipt of the medical records used to substantiate that the complainant was sexually assaulted, the court dismissed the claim and noted that there was no challenge to the University’s rule excluding any references to the complainant’s past sexual history during the hearing. No bias was found in the fact that the Chair of the Hearing Committee was a member of the Board of a Rape Response Services Organization. Her main role on the Board was dealing with the organizations finances. As is clearly shown in this case the issues raised by the accused go directly to the due process requirements outlined above and the Court found that due process was followed and the hearing was fundamentally fair.

Both of these cases give those responsible for the administration of the disciplinary process some clear ideas of the kind of issues they should monitor to have a fair disciplinary process in sexual assault cases. Sexual assaults are probably the most challenging cases when attempting to ensure fundamental fairness in the process. First, these cases typically involve a situation where there are no outside witnesses to the assault and hearing committees are left with the conflicting testimony of the victim and the accused. Such a situation requires that one finds a balance between the emotional and psychological needs of the victim and the due process requirements of the accused. Focusing on certain aspects of the process would help to achieve this balance.

  • The chair of the committee should be trained in how to phrase questions that do not create a perception of bias or conclusions. For example refrain from using terms like “love-making” that imply consent and substituting neutral terms such as sexual activity.
  • The hearing process should be sensitive to the needs of the victim during the hearing while protecting the accused rights to a fair hearing. For example: seating the victim and his/her witnesses so they are facing the hearing committee rather than looking directly at the accused.
  • Ensure that rules governing testimony, such as prohibitions on the review of the sexual history of the victim or the accused, be strictly observed by all.
  • Ensure that hearing procedures reflect the due process protections required for the accused and are applied in practice and in principle to achieve a fundamentally fair hearing.

Paying close attention to these aspects of the hearing will not guarantee that an institution will avoid going to court, but if a suit is filed the institution will certainly will find itself in a more defensible place during litigation. Finally, this is both an ethical and legal approach to protect the integrity of the institution’s disciplinary process.


  • Brownstein, A. (2001, July 6). A battle of wills, rights, and p.r. at Columbia. The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. 43.
  • Gomes v. University of Maine System, 365 F.Supp.2d 6 (D. Maine2005).
  • Theriault v. University of Southern Maine, 353 F.Supp.2d 1 (D. Maine 2004).

From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

Gregory Roberts
ACPA Executive Director

Happy New Year!

The New Year is off to a very exciting beginning! Our colleagues in New Orleans are reopening and students returned in greater numbers than any had expected. Congratulations to the many student affairs educators and other academic colleagues for the untold hours and weeks of work to prepare a “new” learning environment for students! That’s what it’s all about…………..student learning and experiences!

Our nation’s capital was focused on the Supreme Court nomination process and nominees. Congress has been on recess over the holidays and is just getting back to the other agendas at hand, which includes the Higher Education Reauthorization Act (HERA) and reconciliation bills. Given midterm elections, it is uncertain if the HERA will be passed this session.

Given most of our attention is focused on the upcoming 82nd Annual Convention in Indianapolis; I would like to share three important initiatives that are underway or ongoing this spring:

  • ACPA Governance Task Force – the volunteer leadership has been actively engaged at reviewing member feedback and association organizational structure options in hopes of putting together a more functional and responsive governance structure that will take the Association into the 21st Century. We are preparing for the next millennium for student affairs educators and the time is now for a careful look at how we aggressively accelerate our mission and core values. The Task Force members under the leadership of Dr. Patty Perillo have done an outstanding job ensuring all Association voices are included. The results will be presented at the Convention.
  • Executive Council approves a resolution on “Sustainable Development.” “Sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible as an idea who time has come.” – Wangari Maathai, Noble Peace Prize Recipient

As we look to the future and to a more global society, we as college student educators must share our values and vision for a greater society and help navigate, with our students, the upstream struggle for equality. More information on this agenda is forthcoming in the future. See attached resolution in its entirety.

  • The Certification Task Force is preparing a “midterm” progress report for distribution with the Association’s President Blimling has appointed additional committee members to move the recommendations to the next level. This will be shared with the membership prior to the Convention.

There will be many opportunities for us to discuss and share perspectives on each of these issues at the upcoming Convention in Indianapolis. I hope you will pause and join us for a few days to learn, share, and experience the energy and enthusiasm of our members.

Until then,




In Support of the 
United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development


The United Nations has declared a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development beginning in January 2005;

The U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education is convening, catalyzing and communicating among sectors of society to engage in the Decade;

The Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future is facilitating the engagement of higher education institutions for the U.S. Partnership;

ACPA – College Student Educators International is a leading organization representing educators in student affairs on campuses world wide;

ACPA’s programs would be enhanced by available materials and new projects focusing on education for sustainable development;

Be it resolved by the Executive Council of ACPA – College Student Educators International:

That we support this effort in concert with the U.S. Partnership for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, and

Be it further resolved that ACPA will collaborate with the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future to promote programs for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development among ACPA members, institutions and affiliated state and international divisions.

Approved by the Executive Council, ACPA – College Student Educators International, February 2006.