The Johns Hopkins University / March 27, 1997
In discussions leading to its recommendations, the Committee sought to understand the causes of campus violence and to develop a number of strategies to address various aspects of this complex problem. As the Committee probed different areas of concern, such as alcohol, firearms, dating violence, and harassment/stalking, it was concluded that there were both specific steps that should be taken to address these individual issues and some general mechanisms that might apply to violence arising from any of these roots. Although this report treats these issues serially, the general intervention strategies outlined in Section F apply to each of these more specific issues as well.
A. Codes of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures for Students and Staff
As part of its review, the Committee examined the existing divisional codes of conduct for students and employees in order to determine if they were broad enough to prohibit behaviors that may lead to violence. The Committee also discussed at length the appropriate response to conduct that violates university regulations. While we find that the staff and undergraduate student conduct codes do leave administrators reasonable latitude to deal with a variety of unacceptable behaviors, we believe that several steps might be taken to make more explicit to the community the kinds of behavior that will not be tolerated. Further, we believe that there are other steps that might be taken when infractions occur. We therefore recommend that the University implement the following actions:
Recommendation 1. Revise existing staff and student conduct codes to include an explicit reference to behavior that "causes or threatens harm to others" and to supplement the existing list of proscribed behaviors to include "persistent, unwanted contact." The adoption of such language will make clear that these forms of intimidation and harassment will be subject to sanction and will raise the saliency of these concerns within the community.
Recommendation 2. Promulgate a code of conduct for undergraduate and graduate students in each of the divisions where none exists. While we have no evidence that the divisions that currently lack codes of conduct for their students have found themselves unable to address student behavior concerns, we think it prudent for each division to have in place an explicit statement about the forms of behavior that violate community norms and subject the perpetrator to sanction. The code of conduct that applies to undergraduates on the Homewood Campus (see Appendix E) might be considered a model to be adapted to other divisional contexts. Even at Homewood, such a code does not pertain to graduate students enrolled in the Homewood divisions, and this need should be addressed.
Recommendation 3. Strengthen the system for reporting incidents involving graduate students. In its review of existing mechanisms for addressing unacceptable behavior, the Committee was struck by the discrepancy between the organized network for addressing incidents involving undergraduates and the much less well defined mechanisms for graduate students. Although the system of residential advisors does not pertain and other student affairs staff do not interact as regularly with graduate students, there are others in positions to be aware of students with disciplinary and behavioral problems. A system should be developed to ensure that any incidents that suggest potential for greater harm can be reviewed and addressed.
Recommendation 4. Develop plans for interim actions prior to resolution of formal disciplinary processes. Administrators responsible for student conduct violations should consider in advance a variety of actions that might be used on an interim basis, pending full judicial proceedings, to help minimize the potential for an escalation of conflict. An example might be the exclusion from a residence hall of a student who, by persistent attention, has been creating discomfort for another resident. Flexible use of a variety of actions, short of causing students' academic programs to be interrupted, can be effective in removing the source of anxiety to other students while the disciplinary process proceeds with appropriate deliberation.
B. Alcohol and Substance Abuse
The Committee did not address in detail the problem of alcohol-related violence, because it believes that this concern is already the subject of a series of aggressive initiatives to reduce alcohol and substance abuse among faculty and students. Both the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program and the Homewood and Peabody Student Affairs offices have undertaken a variety of education programs and have developed support services. Further, the problems of alcohol and drugs are addressed in the curriculum of our medical and health schools so that professional students receive formal education in these matters. Notwithstanding these efforts, it must be noted that alcohol is a significant factor in a large percentage of violent campus incidents, as reflected in the statistics cited earlier in this report. We therefore make the following recommendation:
Recommendation 5. Continue aggressive efforts to reduce alcohol and substance abuse among students, staff, and faculty. A listing of the initiatives sponsored by Homewood Student Affairs appears in Appendix F. Student affairs officers in each of the divisions should evaluate whether similar programs are needed in their setting.
Like other concerned citizens around the country, members of the Committee are sobered by the amount of gun violence in our society. The participation of Mr. Stephen Teret, Director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the School of Hygiene and Public Health, informed the Committee's deliberations. The extent to which guns contribute to lethal outcomes in a variety of conflicts is compelling. According to a fact sheet produced by the Center for Gun Policy and Research:
Recommendation 6. Revise the University's firearms policy to strengthen the prohibition and make clearer the certainty of sanction for violations of this policy. The Committee has drafted the following language and proposes that the University formally adopt it as an alternative to the current policy which appears in Appendix G.
The possession, wearing, carrying, transporting, or use of a firearm or pellet weapon is strictly forbidden on University premises. This prohibition also extends to any person who may have acquired a government-issued permit or license. Violation of this regulation will result in disciplinary action and sanctions up to and including expulsion, in the case of students, or termination of employment, in the case of faculty and staff. Disciplinary action for violations of this regulation will be the responsibility of the divisional student affairs officer, Dean or Director, or the Vice President for Human Resources, as may be appropriate, in accordance with applicable procedures. Any questions regarding this policy, including the granting of exceptions for law enforcement officers and for persons acting under the supervision of authorized University personnel, should be addressed to the appropriate chief campus security officer.
Recommendation 7. Address the issue of the danger of firearms in a health/wellness brochure for students and in orientation programs. Efforts should be undertaken to raise the level of awareness about the dangers of firearms, and students should be educated about the consequences of their possession. The Committee discussed at length other mechanisms for highlighting the central importance of gun violence prevention, including the idea of a pledge that all students might be asked to sign. After thorough discussion, members of the Committee concurred that there were other, more effective ways to raise awareness.
By accepting admission to the University, students understand that they will be subject to University policies and obligated to University standards of conduct. It seemed to some members of the Committee an ineffective strategy to ask students to forswear the possession or use of firearms when they are each so obligated by virtue of their admission to the University. Further, The Committee was reluctant to single out one policy when there are other important policies that the Committee thinks also must be enforced, such as the prohibition against drug use, the violation of which may also have grave consequences. We do think, however, that through the brochure and other initiatives on campus, the dangers of gun violence can be made more salient to members of the University community. Such efforts should be undertaken in earnest.
Recommendation 8. Collect survey data to document the extent of firearms possession and use by members of the student body. Although it is the sense of the Committee that firearms possession is minimal at Johns Hopkins, members were uncomfortable with making assumptions about such an important matter. Accordingly, we recommend that an effort be made to collect data that would document the extent of weapons possession and use. One ready vehicle for data collection among Homewood students is the annual distribution of a Freshman Cycles Survey. Appropriate administrators should be asked to incorporate relevant questions into the next administration of this survey. The Student Affairs Coordinating Committee should develop a strategy for data collection on the other campuses.
D. Dating Violence
The Committee was struck by data that Committee member Professor Jacquelyn Campbell brought to its attention documenting the widespread incidence of domestic and dating violence. According to national studies, from 20-25% of college students say that they have been involved in a dating relationship that had some aspect of physical and or sexual violence, and from 10-12% indicate their involvement in an ongoing relationship that is physically violent. We were equally impressed by the fact that little is known about the prevalence of such behavior within the Hopkins student body. There is no reason to assume that such problems do not exist at Johns Hopkins when studies have documented them at other universities.
The committee recommends taking several actions to reduce the possibility of serious incidents of violence arising from dating or domestic relationships:
Recommendation 9. Expand training about dating violence for faculty, administrative staff, resident advisors, mental health workers, and health personnel. Those who have regular contact with students and staff should be trained to be alert to signs of domestic or dating violence and to intervene appropriately. Student health personnel and student mental health workers, in particular, should be offered special training since they may be most likely to see symptoms of violence. Similarly, FASAP staff should be sensitized to signs of victims of such behavior.
Recommendation 10. Address the issue of dating violence in a health and wellness brochure for students. While dating violence is an issue that is not openly discussed by those who are victims, and is consequently under-reported by its victims, we think the student body should develop greater awareness of this problem and possible ways to deal with incidents which affect individuals or their peers, despite the prevailing social stigma.
Recommendation 11. Use orientation activities to increase awareness of the problem of relationship violence. In concert with students, orientation planners should develop meaningful and appropriate dating violence prevention activities.
Recommendation 12. Underline the importance of involving security in addressing issues of domestic/dating violence. In efforts to educate the campus about this issue, the importance of alerting campus security to incidents of dating violence should be stressed. Early intervention is sometimes critical to avoiding escalation of conflicts into violent situations.
Recommendation 13. Collect baseline information about the prevalence of dating violence on the Hopkins campuses. In order to develop programs which might reduce the incidence of dating violence, baseline information about its prevalence and student awareness levels should be gathered as a starting point. Armed with these data, faculty, administrators, and students can generate ideas for programs appropriate to the Hopkins context.
The serious issue of general harassment and stalking occupied a considerable portion of the Committee's time. Inclusion of a statement regarding threats and persistent unwanted contact in the student conduct code should strengthen the hands of administrators in the event of infractions. However, the Committee felt that even greater effort should be invested in identifying those situations of harassment, that, left unchecked, might lead to violent conflict. The Committee found that, on campuses and in the workplace, greater attention is being given to this issue, and there is a growing literature about how to recognize and deal with threatening behavior. More aggressive training and education efforts should also be undertaken.
In a subsequent section of this report, the Committee offers some proposals for evaluating and managing responses to potential violence, including harassment and stalking behaviors. In addition to various general mechanisms that we think can be applied with good effect in several situations, including harassment incidents, we propose some specific initiatives.
We believe it is important to raise awareness of harassing and stalking behaviors and their potentially violent consequences. Such education and training efforts should be multi-faceted and should include the following:
Recommendation 14. Expand the discussion of harassment in the Homewood Counseling Center's letter to faculty and initiate a similar letter in other divisions. Each year the Counseling Center distributes to all faculty at Homewood and Peabody a letter regarding its services. (See Appendix H.) In this letter, the Counseling Center Director urges faculty to be alert to signs of distressed students. This letter should be revised to more fully describe harassment and stalking behaviors. Other divisions should initiate a similar communication with their faculty. [Note: The suggested revisions to the Homewood letter have already been completed and the revised version will be issued in September.]
Recommendation 15. Educate department chairs and faculty about harassing behavior. Faculty are frequently in a position to observe signs of troubled students. Often these concerns are shared with department chairs who may need special instruction in these matters and in the appropriate steps to obtain help.
Recommendation 16. Train resident advisors, mental health workers, and health personnel in recognizing obsessive behaviors. Because resident advisors are essentially the first line of defense for Freshmen and Sophomore students on the Homewood and Peabody campuses, they should receive special training in recognizing the signs of behaviors that may become obsessive. Special training should also be conducted for both physical and mental health workers so that they will be attuned to the particular behaviors associated with harassment.
Recommendation 17. Address harassment and stalking in training programs for supervisory staff. The University has under consideration a plan to develop training for supervisors. As part of this training, staff should be educated about the behaviors that can lead to violence and should be taught to recognize warning signs.
Recommendation 18. Highlight the importance of involving campus security at an early point. As part of the education effort, members of the campus community need to be urged to alert campus security at an early point, whenever the behavior of another causes serious discomfort or leaves an individual feeling threatened.
F. Preventive Monitoring and Intervention
The Committee devoted a significant amount of time also to the discussion of proper procedures for monitoring distressed staff and students. In this discussion, the Committee benefited especially from the clinical experiences of committee members Dr. Michael Kaminsky and Dr. Richard Kilburg. The Committee concluded that, in cases of dealing with students who may be potentially dangerous to others, the initial thresholds for preventive intervention should be low. Setting thresholds at such a level will allow those involved in the interventions to obtain an experience that could ultimately provide for studied adjustments in protocols and thresholds for intervention.
The Committee also reviewed the statutory obligations imposed on mental health professionals in cases where there is a formal "duty to warn" about the threat of violence due to the nature of information divulged by a client. These formal requirements, referred to as the "Tarasoff" rule, govern specific circumstances in professional counseling relationships and are adhered to by the University's clinicians. More generally, when a "Tarasoff" situation is not at issue, the Committee finds that Johns Hopkins operates with a bias toward communicating concerns. Although privacy laws, particularly FERPA, make the ability to involve parents less clear-cut than might always be desirable, in the Committee's view, University administrators usually do involve parents when circumstances suggest the wisdom of doing so. The Committee supports this bias as appropriate. It should be noted that parental involvement may entail both the parents of perpetrators of violent acts and the parents of potential or actual victims.
We think the following steps would constitute an enhancement to our efforts to prevent incidents of violence:
Recommendation 19. Adopt a formal protocol for dealing with staff and students who are potentially dangerous to others. The Committee proposes that two tracks, working on two different philosophies, be developed. Track One would be primarily disciplinary and deal with situations that have already become violent. Track Two would work on a preventive premise, where the issues are clinical and involve risk management rather than discipline, at least at the level of the initial screen. In the case of Track Two, trained professionals would become involved in determining the appropriate intervention in a potentially dangerous situation.
A draft proposal that would establish both Tracks One and Two is outlined for use in student cases in Appendix I. A similar set of procedures should be developed for use in staff cases. These protocols would not only ensure that there are "trip wires" for administrative action where intervention is called for, but also that there is an appropriate separation of function, including separation between the evaluation and monitoring functions, and between the treatment and monitoring functions.
Recommendation 20. Establish and make use of a risk assessment and prevention team. After extensive discussions, the Committee on Campus Violence concluded that a new mechanism should be developed in order to prevent potential "failures of foresight." This mechanism is an essential component of the protocol proposed in the previous recommendation. The Committee's proposal is to tap the best expertise within the University to constitute a risk assessment team as an institution-wide resource to help prevent violence on campus. We believe the University's capacity to prevent serious situations or routine problems from escalating into major crises could be substantially enhanced if such a team acted, as outlined above, as consultants and worked with organizational units and managers in determining the degree to which a realistic threat of violence might be faced in a particular set of circumstances.
A more detailed set of policies, procedures, and protocols will need to be developed, but the focus of such a team would be to provide academic and administrative managers with support and expertise in assessing interpersonal and organizational situations that they come to believe have potential to lead to episodes of violence on campus. It is suggested that the team comprise representative staff from the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, the Student Counseling Services, the General Counsel's Office and Security. This core membership could be supplemented by other academic or administrative leadership (Human Resources, Student Affairs, etc) as is necessary and appropriate. Moreover, a list of specialists in various areas who have agreed to serve as ad hoc members will be maintained and updated periodically. In addition, the administrator or faculty member who identifies a potential threat or violent situation would work with the risk assessment team to ensure that an integration of services and administrative approaches would be accomplished in each situation.
When a potential threat of violence is brought to the attention of someone with administrative responsibility in the University, the administrator could call for a risk assessment to be done, and the contact person could be alerted to convene the team. In addition to identifying the risk inherent in the situation, a strategy for managing the situation could be defined and recommendations for managing the situation could be developed and conveyed to the appropriate administrators for the situation. Such a risk assessment team might evaluate the early implementation of the strategy and suggest modifications as appropriate. Victims may need special counseling about their options for action and about how to handle the psychological toll that such incidents involve. A team approach will be potentially helpful to individuals who must consider alternative courses of action and their likely consequences.
Periodically, the entire experience of risk assessment could be reviewed for its implications for University-wide learning and policy development. We urge the University to take immediate steps to define further the composition and operation of such a risk assessment team and to implement it as soon as possible.
Recommendation 21. Include, in discussions of risk, explicit attention to the matter of parental involvement. It is also the Committee's view that in addressing a plan for managing situations of potential violence, the University must include in its considerations the obligation not only to potential victims, but also to parents. Such situations are made difficult by the restrictions of the Buckley Amendment, which puts the premium on protecting students privacy. In any given situation, student affairs officers have several obligations, and careful balancing is in order: they must abide by the law, and they must serve the best interests of the student, while recognizing the legitimate interests of parents. Theirs is not an easy task, and we do not wish to tie their hands in dealing with situations that require professional judgments based on specific circumstances. It should also be noted that the need for counseling about alternative courses can extend to victims' families. While the University is constrained in providing such services, it should share this activity and aid all those involved by helping to direct them to appropriate sources of support and help.
Recommendation 22. Ensure that FASAP and Counseling Center staff have the professional preparation to meet their responsibilities under the protocol/risk assessment procedures. FASAP and Counseling Center staff who will conduct formal evaluations may need additional specific training in assessment of these situations. Also, because Counseling Center staff who become involved in intervention may be treating either potential victims or potential perpetrators, their role is complicated and should be thought through in order to avoid creating issues of conflict of agency. It may be necessary to develop a list of external practitioners who may be called upon to conduct evaluations on consultation from the Counseling Center. The professionals used in such situations should be those who understand college and university life and the needs of administrators.
Recommendation 23. Develop professional resources for evaluation of SAIS students. The Committee on several occasions noted that the geographic isolation of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies precludes easy access to the resources of the Johns Hopkins Medical and Health Institutions. For this reason, it was suggested that an appropriate directory of professional resources in the Washington area be developed with Drs. Kaminsky's and Kilburg's advice. The needs of students, faculty, and staff at the Bologna Center and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center present special challenges and should also be addressed.
Recommendation 24. Make wider use of letters constituting "administrative orders." In our discussions with Dr. Dorothy Siegel, the Committee found compelling her endorsement of the practice of having appropriate administrative officers write letters to students suspected of unacceptable behavior, putting them on notice that certain behaviors will not be tolerated. Without passing judgment on whether a student has actually violated a regulation, it is possible to remind the student that, should this prove to be the case, the consequences may be serious and that the student should therefore cease and desist from behaviors that others find threatening. Where a student is the complainant, this technique also has the advantage of changing the dynamics of the situation so that it is no longer a case of one student versus another, but rather the university representing the community norms. The Committee agreed with Dr. Siegel's position that it is possible to craft letters which do not pre-judge guilt or innocence, but simply highlight standards and reiterate the consequences of infringing those standards.
This same device may be useful in addressing situations of suspected harassing behaviors among staff members, and Human Resource administrators should consider the circumstances under which administrative orders might be similarly effective.
Recommendation 25. Train staff in student or employee service offices to ensure that they are prepared to deal with distressed students and employees and that they know how to respond to potentially violent situations. Certain campus offices tend to deal regularly with individuals who may be frustrated by various policies or upset with particular decisions, and the Committee thinks that it would be worthwhile to insure that staff who work in these areas are given special training in how to respond effectively to such behaviors. Examples might be the Financial Aid and Registrar's Offices which sometimes must convey to students decisions that incite emotional responses.
Recommendation 26. Review the student health forms employed at the time of matriculation and include questions that would strengthen the ability to identify health and behavior problems. The results of this review should be discussed by the Student Affairs Coordinating Committee for appropriate follow-up. [Note: Homewood Student Health is already revising its forms as a result of Committee discussions.]
Recommendation 27. Develop a research protocol involving more extensive health and behavior screening through FASAP. Consideration should be given to undertaking a formal study to determine whether more effective screening could identify employees with health and behavior problems. Such a study would require the approval of the appropriate human subjects committee. One would then be in a position to evaluate whether more intense screening is effective in the early identification and deterrence of potentially serious problems. G. Crisis Management
On many college and university campuses, the need for a comprehensive crisis management plan is under active discussion. The Committee on Campus Violence supports efforts to put such a plan in place for Hopkins, beginning with an appropriate study. However, even in the short term, there are additional steps that can be taken to enhance the University's capacity to respond to crisis.
Recommendation 28. Adopt crisis management response protocols in all divisions. We urge that student affairs administrators in each of the divisions adopt a protocol similar to the one which has been put in place by Homewood Student Affairs. This protocol appears as Appendix J. Such a plan should take into account resources available within each school and should reflect the assignment of specific responsibility, in keeping with the particular administrative structure of that school.
Recommendation 29. Ensure that students are accompanied and that staff support is provided when there is police involvement. Whenever it is known that a student has been taken to the police station, it is important that appropriate staff be provided to help the student deal with the natural anxiety that such experiences create. For Homewood Student Affairs, the established plan calls for campus security to provide an escort, but there are occasions on which trained student affairs professionals are also needed to provide counseling support.
Recommendation 30. Identify expertise in post-traumatic stress syndrome and make it available to support trauma victims. A list of experts in treating post traumatic stress syndrome should be compiled so that, in case of an emergency, such experts can be involved in helping to deal with the shock and stress of traumatic incidents. Although it is to be hoped that this list of experts would be activated only rarely, student affairs officers in each of the schools and FASAP professional staff should have access to this list so that it can be utilized in an emergency. Requirements for providing this kind of expertise differ from the counseling skills possessed by the majority of student affairs administrators and even those of trained Counseling Center and FASAP staff.
Recommendation 31. Ensure adequate communication with parents. Earlier, we addressed the more complicated issues of when and how to involve parents in cases where there is a potential threat. Within the constraints of FERPA, we have already indicated our support for operating with a bias toward parental involvement. In the case of a crisis, there should be no ambiguity about the course of action. Parents should be notified immediately and should be kept fully informed as the situation develops. Even when there is nothing new to report, we think that a periodic checking-in assists all parties in remaining in good communication.
Recommendation 32. Develop a comprehensive crisis management plan for the University. The Committee recommends that a comprehensive crisis management plan be developed so that the University is prepared to manage a variety of organizational and natural crises, including such things as major fires, natural catastrophes, and acts of terrorism, as well as major organizational crises for the University. While the Committee on Campus Violence discussed various aspects of such a plan, and identified several models in the literature and in place at other institutions, it concludes that a full discussion of the issues and a detailed plan should be the subject of a separate review. The University is urged to move quickly to create a process through which such a plan can be established.
H. Dispute Settlement Mechanisms
In the course of its discussions, the Committee recognized the importance of resolving conflicts before they lead to violent situations. Several members of the Committee have had positive experiences with alternative dispute settlement mechanisms which employ members of the University community as mediators. In the case of staff members, these mechanisms may function as alternatives to the formal employee grievance procedures. They have also been used with good effect to resolve conflicts among students. A corollary of this effort will be training in conflict resolution skills. We think the following is an appropriate recommendation for constructive action that has the potential to contribute to campus violence prevention:
Recommendation 33. Explore the establishment of a dispute resolution mechanism. We believe by channeling conflicts into appropriate forms for peaceful resolution, incidents of violence may be avoided.
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