Westmont Magazine Disciplined Action
An interview with Jane Higa, Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Life
Q: What is Westmont’s approach to disciplining students?
A: We desire students to grow in mind, heart and soul, and we see the discipline process as a part of our educational program. Through the discipline process, students are given an opportunity to pause and reflect upon their actions, to take responsibility for the choices they have made, and to make a decision to change their behavior. Students sometimes struggle to find words to articulate what they are feeling or to take ownership for their actions. Aspects of discipline can be uncomfortable, but we do everything we can to make a student feel comfortable and respected. We deal with students as individuals, not categories, and work to listen to each situation carefully and non-judgmentally. We hope and pray that students will learn more about themselves and the persons God is calling them to be.
Q: When do students get involved in the disciplinary process?
A: There is a range of reasons that a student may get involved in our discipline process: pranks, open-hours violations, alcohol use, and date rape. Our campus reflects the world at large and being at a Christian college doesn’t alter the importance of each student making clear choices about behavior. Although the vast majority of Westmont students do not go through the discipline process, I am very aware of the inevitable influence of contemporary culture on our students. Generally speaking, today’s high school and college student face many challenges and choices, and the moral categories that governed previous generations are often blurred. Therefore it is important to be explicit in our conversations with students about the choices they make in regards to alcohol and drug use and relationships with members of the opposite sex.
Q: Underage drinking is a concern in our culture and a problem on college campuses. How does Westmont deal with underage students who are caught drinking?
A: As in all discipline, we treat students as individuals and consider the nature and circumstance of each situation. Generally, for the first offense, we require students to participate in an online educational program, known as Alcohol.edu. They must also attend a counseling session with one of the staff members at our Counseling Center, who does an assessment of the student. The student is also placed on probation for one year and is notified that a second occurrence will result in parental notification and a suspension from classes. Knowing that alcohol use is sometimes an indication of alcoholism, we are always alert to students who might be struggling with a pattern of behavior that requires a referral to a treatment program.
Q: Is it ever appropriate for parents to be involved in discipline?
A: We like to partner with parents and consider them a valuable resource. Parents can be most helpful by encouraging their students to take responsibility for their actions, to speak honestly and directly with us, and to help us understand the context surrounding their actions. Parents can play a significant role by helping their students sort out the reasons for their choices and develop plans that would help them make different choices in the future. Through this kind of self-reflection, a student is better prepared to meet with us in the discipline process.
As a parent of two college students, I understand the desire of parents to do all they can to protect their children, to open doors for them, and to ensure that they get the best opportunities in life. It is a challenge to step out of that role when they go to college, especially if we know they are involved in discipline. Everything in us wants to step in and take over. Let me encourage you to allow them, as maturing adults, to learn how to take responsibility and to accept the consequences for their actions.