by Lindsey Hobbs
In the first of a two-part series on campus security, Lindsey Hobbs digs into the process that protects some Otterbein University students from the criminal records they might earn off-campus.
Otterbein's security department has trained to become a fully certified police department. However, it still diverts most campus crime to a campus judicial council, thus helping students avoid criminal charges. According to campus crime statistics, disciplinary referrals outnumber criminal charges as far back as 2007, which is the oldest data in the report.
“Take, for example, a student that is underage and is caught with an alcohol violation. That is a criminal violation, it’s a misdemeanor. The officer has the discretion not to write them a criminal citation, but can write them a judicial citation so they do not have to have a criminal record,” Larry Banaszak, chief of Otterbein police, said.
Otterbein isn’t alone in wrestling with how to deal with campus crime. Nationwide, campus judicial systems hear cases about alcohol, but depending on how much evidence is presented against a student, also more serious offenses such as thefts, fights and sexual assaults. It is these types of cases, especially sexual assaults, that have fallen under national scrutiny.
The campus judicial proceedings, parts of a student's private educational records, replace the public criminal records that would otherwise come of their misdeeds. They also mean that students are subject to a lower standard of evidence than they would be if charged through the criminal justice system.
In other words, “It’s easier to be found in violation of the student conduct code than be found guilty of a criminal charge," said Julie Saker, Otterbein's director of student conduct and wellness. She's the one who decides whether something should be handled criminally or administratively.