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UMass officials speed up discipline process in dealing with student off-campus infractions

Sally Linowski, assistant dean of students, said her office is using Skype technology to conduct hearings involving students who have already left town. There are 80 open cases, according to UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski. Though the bulk of them will be completed within the next month, those involving the most serious offenses will require more time, he said.

At a recent meeting of the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking, Linowski said speeding the process is part of UMass’ commitment to strengthen its response to off-campus incidents. With Amherst and UMass police stepping up enforcement to stem student disruptions in neighborhoods such as loud parties, the dean’s office will do its part by acting as quickly as possible, she said.

Blaguszewski said the importance of handling these matters in a timely manner has been one of the hallmarks of Enku Gelaye, dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs and campus life, who began her tenure in April 2011.

“Since that time she’s made it a priority to adjudicate cases and clear the docket going into the fall,” he said.

Blaguszewski said officials want to make it clear to students that even though incidents occur as the school year is winding down, there still will be consequences. This includes seniors, he said. Some may have participated in the commencement ceremony May 10 but will not have their degree in hand until their cases are settled.

The quicker pace for handling code-of-conduct violations comes after UMass and municipal officials made keeping the peace in town a priority this spring. Only one large-scale disturbance at Townehouse Apartments March 9 marred an otherwise relatively quiet spring, they said.

Nancy Buffone, executive director for the Office of External Relations and University Events, said UMass launched pilot projects, including weekly messages to both students and their parents, joint patrols with Amherst and UMass police and a $40,000 contribution to the town’s fire department to increase the number of ambulances available on weekends to lessen the impact of student emergencies on the town .

Linowski said some of the messages went to students who already had what she calls “conduct histories.” UMass officials also paid special attention to off-campus residences where violations of town’s noise and nuisance bylaws had already occurred.

Amherst Police Capt. Christopher Pronovost agreed that the spring was quieter, but attributed that to the work police officers did.

“The spring overall went pretty well for us, but it didn’t come without a cost. It was very expensive for us,” Pronovost said.

He cited the weekend of April 27, when 39 Amherst police officers were on duty, meaning a significant number of overtime hours were logged.

Prior to the next school year, UMass will again have a new student orientation program that is aimed at educating students about off-campus behavior expectations.

In addition, a new students program offered on June 2 will feature videotaped interviews of local elementary and middle school students describing how wild off-campus college parties have affected them. The video is being made by Amherst middle school students in an after-school science club.

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