HEARING FROM THOSE APPOINTED TO HEAR: AN ASSESSMENT OF CONDUCT OFFICER TRAINING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
The purpose of this study was to assess conduct officer training at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) by determining how well conduct officers are trained as evaluated in 25 areas in the use of adjudication/appeals boards by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) for Student Conduct Programs (SCP) and how judicial administrators can enhance such training to advance the work of student conduct at USM. The results of this study have the potential to advance the work of judicial affairs on campus, and also to further develop USM students ethically and morally. Current and former University conduct officers were emailed a survey comprised of four parts: participant demographic information; a 25-item Likert scale instrument assessing retrospective knowledge mean levels before and after training; a five-item Likert scale instrument examining perceived important components of the USM conduct process; and four open-ended questions. Of the 56 conduct officers on record, 14 conduct officers began and completed the survey.
Analysis of the responses indicated the following: of the 25 areas in the use of adjudication/appeals boards as outlined by CAS for SCP, conduct officers at USM reported lower retrospective knowledge mean levels after training than before training. Some of those areas include knowledge of the USM Code of Conduct; knowledge of potential sanctions utilized in the conduct process; knowledge concerning conducting a student conduct conference with a student; knowledge of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA); and knowledge of higher educational law; however conduct officers overwhelmingly agreed that knowing University policies; conduct officer preparedness to adjudicate conduct cases; and adhering to privacy and confidentiality polices and laws regarding student records are perceived as highly important in the USM conduct process. Participants in this study expressed a desire for more opportunities to serve on panels and increased training in the areas of sanctions and sanctioning type. The data collected from this doctoral project provides useful information regarding the future training of conduct officers and the enhancement of the student conduct process and conduct environment on campus, both of which contribute significantly to USM students’ retention, persistence, and overall moral and character development.