The University Council has approved a new judicial package involving corporal punishment within Residence Life. According to Chief Housing Officer Tanya White, changes in the new punishment system include lashings, sentences in the stocks and, in extreme cases of misconduct, spanking.
The major points in the new judicial package are definitions for punishment of different proscribed conduct. In the new system, students can be physically reprimanded for various violations of their living agreement. Minor offenses will be punished by lashings while more severe infringements like drug violations can land students in the stocks outside Roskie Hall for up to six hours, according to the new residence life handbook. That handbook also has a clause requiring that repeat offenders wear University of Montana apparel while serving in the stocks. Spanking is reserved for violations of building security, so students who like to prop the back door of their dorm should be wary of such behavior under this new code.
Associate Director of Residence Life Jeb Mondy said of the new system for punishing proscribed conduct will help make MSU, and more specifically on campus housing, a more inviting environment for education: “Being able to punish violations that interfere with someone’s academic living environment properly is only going to make MSU a better university … its a win-win for everyone.”
White said that the new system will allow her staff to address the more serious offenses that they deal with more swiftly: “Being able to deter people from committing violations that put everyone in harms way, like door propping, can only make the RA’s jobs easier.” Prior to these new changes, door propping was punishable by eviction, but White said that only made problems worse. “When you send a serial door-propper to another building, they just continue to put those students in danger. We want to stop these problems before they start,” White said.
ASMSU President Fate Paris said that although she has heard some complaints from students, most members of the MSU community support these changes. “In the end it comes down to safety, and we can all agree the students will be more secure with these new punishments in place,” she said.
Mondy said the the process for making these changes followed the same process as any other policy changes that affect students. “Residence life sent these revisions out to the students just like any other changes to campus policy … the students certainly got their word in.” The referendum in which students approved the corporal punishment system had a voter turnout of 0.14 percent, or 22 students. The voter turnout was just barely higher than it was for the 2015-2016 ASMSU general elections, in which the 21 students who were running for senate voted for themselves.
MSU Legal Counsel Lassie Tyler said that the university is fully within it’s rights to set and exercise punishments, stating, “Students agree to follow the university rules, and in the case of violations, punishment can be exercised.” Tyler said that the new judicial process was also the reason that she recommended that a section of the student bill of rights guaranteeing an academic community “that is free from bodily restraint or harm, personal insult, defamation, and injury to the person’s personal relations” be removed from the document, which is currently in the final stages of approval.
The new judicial package will be put in place starting in fall 2015. So far, no mention of corporal punishment has been made in any residence life literature for MSU Friday visitors.
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