Racial incident highlights BW code of conduct

Two Baldwin Wallace students are facing charges and one withdrew from the university following a racially charged incident on campus last week.

On Oct. 10, a mass email was sent to all BW students and staff regarding the incident, which occurred Oct. 6 in Findley Hall.

The incident involved several students and was “ignited by a racist comment, alcohol and lack of judgement,” according to the email, which was attributed to Trina Dobberstein, vice president of student aff airs and dean of students, and Charles Harkness, chief diversity officer.

According to Berea Police, who were called to the incident by campus security, a racial slur was shouted from the hallway outside of a black student’s dorm room followed by a physical altercation between two female students.

Two students, a Kentucky man and a Columbus woman, both 18, face misdemeanor criminal charges, according o a police report in Cleveland.com. They told police they had yelled racial slurs at the other student, a 19-year-old woman, “to be funny,” the paper reported.

In addition to criminal charges, the pair are also being “formally charged for violations of the BW Student Code of Conduct,” according to the BW email sent Oct. 10.

“One student involved in the incident acknowledged use of a racial slur that was the catalyst to this incident and withdrew from BW before the student conduct process could begin,” the email reads. “That student will not be permitted to return to BW.”

The email indicated that meetings for students involved were scheduled to “reaffirm our values of inclusion and respect.”

“The incident Saturday night reflects poorly on how individuals in an inclusive, united BW community treat each other,” the email said. “The actions of the individuals in this incident are not acceptable.”

The incident, and the campus-wide email, has drawn attention to the BW Student Code of Conduct.

The BW Student Handbook directly lays out a set of rules that students are expected to agree to and uphold. When one of these guidelines is violated, proper action must be taken by various departments at BW, including, at times, expulsion.

“It’s kind of like a contract that we have,” said Dobberstein in an interview. “We have these rules, we expect people to live with rules and if they don’t then we need to make sure that we have a process to have a correction for that. If they can’t do it, then they shouldn’t be in the community.”

Dobberstein said that the investigation process is in place to protect the community, and violations are not taken lightly. Any action taken to investigate a violation of BW’s community standards must begin with an official report, she said, and there are many ways for students to report violations: calling safety and security, filing a report online, or contacting the Office of Residence Life.

Once a report is made, the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Diversity starts to gather information from any witnesses and reliable sources.

Issues are handled methodically within hearings, she said, which are held in various conference rooms around campus. Charges are read aloud, each party is given the opportunity to give their side of the story, questions are asked, and witnesses are named and questioned.

“It’s really a simple process in that we have to get all the information that’s possible to get out there so that the best judgement can be rendered,” said Dobberstein.

Once the questioning process is complete, the student conduct team deliberates in private and agrees upon a sanction — which could include probation, suspension and expulsion — and the sanction is then communicated to the individuals and enforced by Student Affairs. A full description of the hearing process can be found in the Student Handbook, which can be accessed through the BW website.

For a first offense, if the violator admits to the violation they are given a warning, not a sanction. For a second offense, action may be taken depending on the circumstance. If a violator does not admit to a violation, they are scheduled for a campus hearing, moderated by the Student Conduct Team.

To take care of the emotional damage created by this incident, the Findley Hall Director and the Center for Inclusion are working together to make a plan to refresh the idea of safety and respect on campus.

According to Dobberstein, resident advisors and Findlay staff have doubled their service to reinforce availability to residents who now feel uncomfortable living in the community.

Hall director Kierra Kennelly said she has personally reached out to residents of Findlay Hall via email to reinforce
the idea that guidelines are to be followed by every resident.

“We had an incident that doesn’t reflect who we are,” said Kennelly. “These things aren’t going to be tolerated.” University sanctions in the Oct. 6 incident have yet to be determined.