Webinar Recap: Building Cultures of Care and Accountability in Higher Ed

In preparation for a new wave of students arriving to campuses across the globe in September, many will come to higher education with a markedly different experience. The pandemic has affected students in unpredicted and burdensome ways which has affects on student conduct work in mental and physical care.

To build a framework of understanding what’s ahead, Symplicity and Orbis hosted a Global Student Conduct Roundtable “Building Cultures of Care and Accountability in Higher Ed” with a diverse, global panel.

Moderated by Dr. Bill Heinrich, Director of Orbis' Mindset, the panel included:  Lara Hof (Founder of Hof & Associates), Dr. Nicole Whitner (Dean of Students and Holy Names University), Dr. Roxanne Khan, (Director of HARM and the University of Central Lancashire), and Ryan Bunts (Senior Campus Advisor at the JED Foundation). Our panelists joined us from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to provide a global perspectives on the challenges facing institutions and how student conduct is a "collective care model where we are all responsible," to create an environment that is safe for students and staff.

In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the conversation.

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Ryan Bunts in his work has seen that students are more and more self-reporting, rather than campus leaders reporting. While it was predicted that with the return to in-person conduct cases would rise after “isolation and all that time away from campus,” JED and the Healthy Minds Network found that it’s at roughly the same level it was before the pandemic. However, both organizations have found that students are doing more self-reporting and their reasoning for their behavior is different. In many cases Bunts noted that students were drinking excessively, taking drugs, or behaving unsafely because they are bored, haven’t made social connections, using prescription drugs to cope with stress from academics or financial burdens. The reasons behind why students have engaged in these behaviors has changed.

From the practitioner perspective, Hof said that online harassment in the virtual space was top of mind for her current higher ed clients. Additionally, challenges around scope and jurisdiction on what higher ed is able to address and that “we can always just talk to our students about harm and impact and rebuilding that trust despite what our policy document allows us to do,” said Hof. Yet, utilizing technology has provided institutions with a better way to connect with their students. Dr. Khan noted that there was a “silent pandemic” of the enforced staying at home where everyone at university was doubled manifold with mental health and abuse struggles exacerbated by the pandemic because there was no respite to seek relief. 

Approaches to Support Students Through Conduct Care

As students bring their whole selves to campuses, the support for them is all the more critical coming out of the “new normal” of a pandemic world. Traditionally supporting students with mental health and wellness support has been relegated for counseling to deal with. Yet, it is valuable as Bunts said to really understand that “we all have a party to play in our students well-being.” This includes thinking about what to implement with staff and faculty to understand needs for students to get them the resources and help they need. This requires campuses to provide mental health training, along with a good referral system in place on their campuses.

Dr. Whitner said this includes understanding that this group of students are coming in with more complex challenges than the students before them and that in facilitating a conduct violation procedure, to not lecture the student, but instead have a conversation and understand where their behavior stems from. And then get the student the support they need. Coming from a small institution, Dr. Whitner highlighted how the same staff supporting student conduct are also supporting CARES that enables the team to “get at the root at what’s happening and then connect them to the resources.” The conversations at Holy Names University are to open conversations up to students with getting at “why” they were violating a policy.

This also includes having the “student authentically engage in that process and allowing them to drive that process,” Hof said. “Instead of me telling you how to get better, can you name that with me…having student involved on that level is really key and fundamental to take the next step towards caring for themselves and caring for others.” This also includes, as Bunts added, by tapping into your community to know what resources currently exist to support students with substance abuse to get that help when many universities are strapped for counseling resources.

Reevaluate Your Polices

It’s good to take stock of how your campus handles student conduct and CARE cases given the many changes that have upended higher education and the students entering campus. Facing a multitude of barriers and stresses, Dr. Hof encourages campuses, whether in a virtual environment or in-person, to really take a critical eye to the polices already in place. Ultimately conduct serves to provide a safe and healthy environment for students, but some of the polices in place might not be serving the students in that manner, or are the resources readily accessible or known about for students to seek support from.

Dr. Hof says that campuses should ask themselves “If I was student struggling, what does that look like? What do the walls around me look like? What does that space look like? And how do I know that there is a community standards code? But how does it really show up on campus?” That, is a piece “we really have a responsibility in creating an environment that drives inclusions, and a sense of belonging and connectedness of our students.”

In the UK, Dr. Khan noted that it is even more important for institutions to step up, as the lack of a Title IX equivalent policy in the UK means that some students aren't feeling they are adequately supported on campuses. The ethical and moral reasons to support these students and evaluate internal processes to support the students is the first step to creating national change. 

For the full conversation, watch the recording below! Wish to learn more about how Advocate (U.S.) and Access (UK/International) can enhance your institutional goals to supporting student well-being in your office? Contact us at hello@symplicity.com.


Student Conduct, Advocate, Mental Health, Accessibility Services, Mental Health Support, wellness, wellbeing, Student Wellbeing, CARE Reports, students of concerns

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