College is a very special time for a student. But occasionally, the pure specialness of this time has a disorienting effect. Occasionally, said student may pound four Jager Bombs on an empty stomach and decide to go vandalize some cars just because it’s a Tuesday, to give a purely theoretical example.
Often those actions will get them into trouble. But the kind and degree of trouble varies from school to school.
Washington State University, for example, is at one extreme. Whitworth, at the other. All the other schools fall somewhere in between.
WSU: Crime and Punishment. So Much Punishment.
State colleges often have something the private schools don’t: their own bona fide police departments. Washington State University is no exception.
Once a student himself, Steve Hansen, lieutenant of the WSU Police “just stayed” after graduating, and has been at his job for over 28 years. When asked what causes most of the problems around campus, without a second of hesitation, he deadpans, “Alcohol.”
Most of the problems are mischief — stuff Hansen knows that students wouldn’t do when they are sober — but that doesn’t mean they’ll be let off. In fact, Hansen says WSU intentionally doesn’t give out “warnings.” Those don’t curb the bad behavior, he says.
In Pullman, students are subjected to not one but two police forces — the WSU Police and the city’s police department. That’s a lot of police for such a little town. But Hansen says staying out of trouble despite the heavy patrols is as simple as just, you know, not drawing attention to yourself.
“We don’t hide in the shadows,” says Hansen. “It’s the person that’s doing something that’s going to get the attention.”
When a student does get into trouble, Hansen says, they’ll be turned over to the Whitman County district court system, in addition to WSU student conduct officials. Basically, this means that one infraction goes through two penal systems — double trouble. Also, if a student from another university gets into trouble in Pullman, Hansen says it’s reported to their school’s conduct office.
No matter the situation, the best bet for those facing disciplinary action, Hansen says, is initial cooperation.
“I would never expect kids to give up their rights,” says Hansen. “You don’t have to admit to it or anything, but if you run or you fight, you’re just adding more consequences and charges to what’s already happened.”
Tip: WSU’s Student Legal Services offers legal counsel from a lawyer licensed to practice in both Washington and Idaho. Oh, and it’s free.
Whitworth: Phone Home
If you get in minor trouble at Whitworth, chances are they aren’t going to turn you in to the police. According to Dr. Richard Mandeville, associate dean of students, that’s not how they roll. But they will make you confess your indiscretions to your parents. Then your parents have to verify that conversation with Mandeville.
“We have very few second incidences,” Mandeville says with a chuckle.
The phone call, though, is the last step. Even though they’re not going to rat you out to the police, Whitworth’s disciplinary process is intended to be a learning experience. There’s the initial meeting with Mandeville, the student, and the student’s “support person.” Then, if the student is guilty, it’s off to a counselor for a written assessment, followed by community service, a fine, or both. Then the phone call.
It’s all based on the school’s three guidelines, called the “Big Three.” Boiled down, you aren’t supposed to drink on campus, cohabitate with those of the opposite sex, or be disruptive to others. Vague, yes. But that’s intentional.
“We try to not have a lot of rules,” says Mandeville. “We don’t want a rule-based conduct system. We want one that’s principle-based. The goal is to help them be successful.”
Arguably, both WSU and Whitworth want their students to be successful, but they do paint a clear contrast in methodologies, both in the rules themselves and how they’re enforced.