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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Students face unfair possibility of double jeopardy

Have you ever gotten two drinking tickets for the same offense? Probably not. But if proposed revisions to state law are made, you could very well be punished for the same crime twice. Presently, University of Wisconsin System Chapter 17 only addresses nonacademic misconduct, and it strictly defines prohibited conduct and the procedures to resolve allegations of such acts. Unfortunately, the Chapter UWS 17 and 18 Review Committee is charged with revising this policy, and the changes to it could ultimately affect the academic integrity of UW students.

Originally, issues with non-academic misconduct were not an issue for UW-Madison students. In a telephone interview with Kyle Duerstein, a student at UW-Milwaukee and member of the Chapter UWS 17 and 18 Review Committee, he said that it was the neighborhood associations around the UW-Milwaukee campus that issued complaints regarding the behavior of students off campus. These associations greatly exaggerated the misconduct of students.

In an e-mail forwarded to me by Mr. Duerstein, written by Kay Baldwin, a prominent member of a neighborhood association in Milwaukee, she stated, “The [Murray Hill Neighborhood Association] area was held hostage this past Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. I cannot believe the reports that I have received: verbal and physical abuse of the elderly and animals, property damage, complete disregard for self and others’ safety and property, etc. This cannot go on.” Later in the e-mail, she states, “We have our own form of terrorists: … those brought to the neighborhood by the University.” Hostage? Terrorists? Are we talking about college students or al-Qaida?

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As usual, to deal with this problem, the always bureaucratic UW System created another review committee to look over a policy that would be better left as is — just like the new segregated fee policy committee.

Is it really the fault of students at UWM that they are imposing their college lifestyle on the surrounding neighborhoods? As of right now, on-campus housing is only offered to ten percent of the 29,000 UWM students. That means approximately one-third of students who receive on-campus housing could be housed in UW-Madison’s Witte Hall. If the university cannot provide the space for them to live on campus, shouldn’t they be allowed to act like normal college students off campus?

Revisions to Chapter 17, as of right now, are ambiguous, but ultimately could result in a sort of “double punishment” for UW System students. As opposed to double jeopardy, where someone cannot be tried twice for the same crime, students guilty of off-campus crimes could be punished by the proper local officials, as well as their respective universities for the same infraction. Instead of just receiving a citation, students could effectively be put under academic sanction for the minutest of crimes.

Mr. Duerstein’s views on the issue speak for any UW System student. He said in our conversation that right now he believes only major crimes, such as acts of violence or sexual assault, would be brought to the attention of a university’s investigating officer — something he has fought for personally. However, there is room for discretion by university officials for what crimes to pursue.

Mr. Duerstein added in the interview that, “It is not appropriate for the university to address the little things. These [misdemeanors] are not good reflections on students, but they are not university problems. In changing the policy, we’re saying, ‘Hey, our police can’t handle their job.’ UW schools should be worried about our education, not about some kid pissing on someone’s front lawn. If problems keep reoccurring, change the law — not UW System policy.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Of course it is ridiculous that a student’s academic record should be compromised for something that he or she did off campus. Does this mean that any party that is broken up on Regent Street on game day by the police will now become a university issue? The amount of paper it would take to punish students for off-campus drinking tickets is unfathomable. Think of all of those trees! The workload alone for the UW System would be enough to compromise the effectiveness of the discipline of students. I cannot imagine why the UW System would want to complicate a perfectly good situation and eradicate the simplicity of the current Chapter 17 policy.

Andrew Traverse ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in business.

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