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Disciplinary cases down as RCs step in early

One year into the Residence Coordinators program, the impact of RCs has been borne out dramatically in disciplinary cases. Statistics recently released from the Office of Judicial Affairs show that vastly more cases are now handled informally by residential staff members.

More violations were reported overall in 2002-2003 than the five-year average but - in a change from years past-fewer than half were adjudicated by the Undergraduate Judicial Board. This is largely due to a steep drop in the number of residential cases brought before the board, as RCs were able to resolve about 48 percent of cases informally. As recently as 2000-2001, no cases were resolved informally.

Associate Dean for Judicial Affairs Kacie Wallace said she sees the RCs' suddenly huge role in the disciplinary process as a positive development.

"I think the RCs are uniquely positioned to intervene at a level where they know their residents, they can have these educational conversations with their residents, and they also see their residents on a daily and nightly basis," she said. "The RCs are doing a lot to help us nip things in the bud before they get to a higher level."

The most dramatic drop in the number of adjudicated cases was seen on East Campus, where only 57 residential violations were reported, down from a three-year average of 177 cases per year.

Much of this decline can be attributed to the dearth of underage alcohol possession cases brought before the UJB last year. Compared to the five-year average of 144 hearings, the 58 cases brought before the board this year represents a truly precipitous drop. As with several other disciplinary trends, the difference can be attributed to the presence of RCs: 103 alcohol violation cases were handled informally by residential staff.

RCs are trained as adjunct judicial affairs officers and are well qualified to deal with several types of disciplinary cases, including alcohol violations, said Eddie Hull, director of residence life and housing services.

"They're professional, full-time staff members with Master's [degrees]; it's part of their responsibility to provide and maintain values at the University," he said.

Wallace agreed that RCs were generally capable of resolving such violations by virtue of their expertise and position of responsibility, but added that students with multiple violations would be referred to Judicial Affairs.

Some of the RCs' impact on alcohol violations in residence halls may have also come from a shift they have effected in dormitory culture.

"The RCs have made and will continue to make a big difference in sort of regulating the civility in the dorms," she said. "In the past we've gotten reports from students that the dorms are an awful place to be on a Friday or Saturday night if you're not in the party."

Judicial statistics revealed a number of other trends in non-academic cases. Complaints arose from Duke Police with more frequency than in years past, with 154 complaints this year compared with 97 in the three years prior to 2002-2003. Wallace speculated that one reason for this rise could be that her office has been encouraging residential staff to call the police more often when confronted with suspicious activity in the dormitories.

With regard to academic integrity, the 54 adjudicated cases represents a 69 percent increase from the five-year average of 32.

While the total number of academic dishonesty cases increased only slightly, the number of plagiarism cases is up sharply.

Judicial Affairs also appears to be considering a wider variety of punishments this year, as shown by the increased use of the one-term suspension and community service as sanctions. The two-term suspension, a more severe option, was used only a third of the time this year, compared to a rate approaching 100 percent two years ago.

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