KAT NAMON ’22
In an email sent out to the student body on Wednesday, Oct. 10, Dean of Campus Life and Vice President for Student Affairs Joe DiChristina outlined a memorandum concerning student disciplinary information from the past three years at Trinity. This method of educating the student body on the results of more recent disciplinary cases is new to the college. In past years, an update was sent to the student body once a year, if at all, and sometimes even once a semester. Senior Associate Dean of Students Ann Reuman said that the memorandum serves as “an aggregate approach to give a fuller picture of what is going on. [The memo] depends on what is brought forward and what the findings are, if [the case] has gone to a hearing.” According to DiChristina, the memorandum is intended to provide the community with concrete data and outcomes from certain disciplinary cases, while also serving as an educational document to show students the possible results their actions could have while they are students at Trinity.
During the Student Government Association meeting this past Sunday, class officers expressed concerns regarding the language of the memorandum, specifically the omission of the phrase “hate-crime” and how it seemed to pay more attention to instances of sexual misconduct, rather than discriminatory acts towards minority groups. This concern was met by clarification from DiChristina, Associate Dean of Students Robert Lukaskiewicz, Associate Director of Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator Venice Ross, and Director of Campus Safety Brian Heavren. DiChristina added that federal law, specifically FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), prohibits the administration from identifying specifics of the cases that are included in the report. Heavren stated that due to federal law, it is very hard for the school to categorize a student’s action as a hate crime. Heavren added that “Hate crimes lie with the motivation of the offender and it takes time to determine these motivations. Knowing that, we strive to find that answer that question when we do an investigation.” This response elicited additional concerns from students regarding the nature of motivations.
The administrators stated that a priority of theirs in writing the memorandum was to remain transparent about the disciplinary matters that have occurred on campus and were highlighted in the email that was sent out to students. Many members of SGA were also curious about why the numbers seemed to not reflect those reported in Trinity’s Cleary Act disclosures, and administrators responded that there were a variety of reasons for this. Ross stated this numerical deviation can result because when reporting instances of sexual misconduct, many students do not wish to go through that kind of process. The incidents were reported based on the year of the report, but the actual act could have happened years earlier.
Talk of re-evaluating the Student Integrity Contract also stemmed from the discussions regarding the student disciplinary update. Lukaskiewicz clarified further, adding that “[The Student] Integrity contract hasn’t been formally reviewed by a student group since its inception. Even if [the group of students] only re-affirmed it, that [would be a] profound message. It raises the level of what the contract is supposed to mean in the community and encourages momentum among students to look and decide what standard we want to set.”