Although Goshen College is retaining its status as a dry campus, the Residence Life (ResLife) team is taking a new approach to campus discipline, shifting the focus towards reconciliation rather than punishment.“Misconduct and violations of the Standards have historically been seen as this ‘Thing’ that’s bad and shameful,” said Kevin Schultz, residence director for Romero Apartments and Intentional Living Communities (both of which serve mostly juniors and seniors). “Now, these situations are an opportunity to figure out where the gap is between the student and the community.”
The new, more restorative approach will attempt to reconnect students who have violated the Community Standards with the campus community. According to Chandler Buchfeller, residence director for Yoder Hall and director of Residence Life and Housing, language in the handbook has been “expanded” to allow for different responses to individual situations.
“It’s about the development of the individual student,” said Buchfeller. “What Student A needs in response to misconduct might not be what Student B needs.”
This change runs counter to how disciplinary procedures have gone in the past, with explicit sanctions leveled for any offense that qualifies. The process was very black-and-white, with no room for adaptations based on the situation.
Now, not only is discipline tailored to the student, but sanctions are not purely punitive. For example, students who violate the Standards no longer face the sanction of probation. Rather, they may face “conversations” about their past decisions and potential ways to impact campus culture for the better moving forward.
Additionally, the Residence Hall Council has been essentially abolished. The council met whenever students were facing disciplinary sanctions and consisted of a panel of ResLife and administrative staff. Buchfeller jokingly referred to it as a “tribunal,” consistent with the experience of many students — but noted that it didn’t fit with Goshen’s commitment to restorative justice.
Another major change is the restatement of policies regarding alcohol.
ResLife is instituting an alcohol amnesty policy at GC. According to the Student Life handbook, “Students who seek professional medical assistance for themselves or others related to the consumption of alcohol or use of illicit drugs will not be subject to disciplinary sanctions. Such students may be required to participate in an education program related to alcohol and [/] or substance…misuse.”
Essentially, if someone calls for help in a situation where someone’s health is at stake, the person who calls will not be disciplined for a Community Standards breach. The student may be brought in for further conversations about what the situation entailed, and in the words of Schultz, their RD may discuss their “relationship with alcohol” with them. However, they will not face further sanctions if they are acting in the best interest of someone’s health — another student’s, or their own.
Additionally, in a shift from Goshen’s tradition of attempting to have a totally dry campus, ResLife will no longer punish students for returning to campus inebriated. Of course, if their intoxicated state leads to more violations of the Standards, they will face a conversation and potentially sanctions about the situation as a whole. Solely returning to campus intoxicated, though, is not a Standards violation in and of itself.
“If push comes to shove, and the question is between accountability and safety, safety needs to one-up everything else,” Buchfeller said. “Not just with alcohol, but in any other situation — and we wanted to make that clear within our policy.”
Some students have felt that these changes were not communicated effectively to the student body on campus. Alex Koscher, a junior at Goshen who recently turned 21, said he was “relieved” to hear that ResLife was prioritizing student safety over punishment, but wasn’t happy with the lack of communication regarding the new amnesty policy.
“It’s definitely information they should have been more open with, and I’m a little frustrated, but I think both of these changes are promoting campus safety,” Koscher said. “I do think any change involving student discipline should be communicated directly to the students, though.”
The team tried to drive the point home that communication and openness is paramount in the new system. “A student will never be surprised with a conduct meeting,” Buchfeller said. Schultz followed that up by saying that ResLife is trying to be more “forward and transparent” in its approach to leading campus.
Since joining the school two years ago, the team has been revamping the way ResLife is seen on campus. The program as a whole was restructured when Goshen hired Buchfeller, Emily Hahn and Schultz to lead ResLife jointly. With the previous ResLife teams completely turning over twice in a two-year span, the new leaders are trying to create some permanence within the program to better support their students. According to Hahn, the residence director for Kratz and Kulp halls, the team is trying to “professionalize” the entire program — and these changes are a direct result.
“Last year, we wanted to get stronger engagement and a good foundation,” Hahn said. “Our first focus was to make sure that we had a good department…Coming in, that was our top priority. Where are the gaps here? How can we create a solid base for Residence Life?”