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Student conduct issues rising

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By Austin Metz
Editor In Chief

Grand Rapids Community College has seen a rise in student conduct issues to start the winter semester with numbers already reaching 12, according to Sara Dorer, Associate Director of Student Conduct.

Student conduct issues include academic dishonesty, classroom disruption, discrimination, and safety violations.

Along with that, there have been 23 Early Alert issues and three behavior concerns which bring the number of issues to 38 for the month of January alone.

With a program like Early Alert, teachers are now able to instantly put up notes about student conduct issues that can serve as either a heads up or can warn Dorer of larger issues happening in a class.

Issues addressed on Early Alert can range from attendance issues, academic performance issues, or overall class conduct and behavior.

“I have no idea why there are so many so quickly,” said Dorer. “Normally, there are this many in the third or fourth week of class.”

While the rise in conduct issues has posed a concern for Dorer, she feels there is more to the situation.

“Students today feel that they are part of an entitled generation, it’s the ‘Generation Me’ concept,” she said. “Students feel they can do what they want because it’s more about themselves than the teacher or other students.”

To Dorer, the best way to limit student conduct issues is to have teachers clearly set guidelines during the first day of class that outline expectations for the semester.

“Set guidelines for class behavior and discussion,” said Dorer. “Set high but reasonable expectations that are clear, and explain why you’ve set certain rules.”

English professor and Faculty Association President Fred van Hartesveldt agreed.

“If the policy is in the syllabus, generally you don’t run into problems,” he said.

Even though numbers continue to rise, there are still students who haven’t been affected by student conduct issues.

GRCC student, Amanda Mashak, is in her fourth semester at the college.

“I’ve never had any issues with student conduct in the classroom,” she explained. “I wasn’t even aware there was a Student Conduct office on campus or a student code of conduct.”

The student code of conduct is available on the GRCC website and covers all classroom situations that might be considered misconduct.

A hard copy can also be picked up at the Student Code of Conduct office located in room 347 of the Student Community Center.

As the numbers continue to increase, Dorer explained that there are building frustrations for faculty.

“Faculty are here to teach content,” Dorer said. “They are so frustrated they have to spend so much time dealing with classroom management.”

Dorer was hired to deal with student conduct and she deals with most student issues at GRCC.

“My job is to educate students but also to keep them in the classroom,” explained Dorer.

One tool she uses is Blackboard and, more specifically, the Early Alert program teachers can access. This has helped her communicate with teachers on a much easier basis.

Although teachers are affected, situations do arise at times where students feel they have been mistreated. When this is the case, running to the president’s office isn’t the right way to deal with it, according to Dorer and van Hartesveldt.

“Teachers need to make it clear that students can come to the teacher first before going to the Dean or department head,” van Hartesveldt explained.

“A student needs to go through three steps to correctly deal with an in-class situation,” Dorer said.

“The first thing to do is talk to your teacher about your concern,” she explained. “Do it one-on-one and in person, not over e-mail. If that doesn’t work then go to the department head.”

“The last step then is to go to the Associate Dean in that section. They will first make sure the student has followed the steps listed above first,” she said. “They will also want the concern in writing so students have to consciously think about the issue at hand.”

Dorer made it clear that there is importance in teachers creating relationships with students as well as finding a teaching style that works best for them when dealing with such situation.

“Each teacher needs to find their own style to dealing with in-class situations,” explained Dorer. “They need to find what works best for themselves.”

The Student Code of Conduct office also deals with failure to pay issues and an array of issues dealing with student organizations and athletes at GRCC.