Self-defense a sketchy subject in Student Code of Conduct

Ohio University students claiming self-defense in a physical altercation might be surprised to learn the university’s Student Code of Conduct will not exempt the student from the judiciary process.

Any student conducting behavior that causes harm or has potential to harm another is referred to the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility with an A-4 charge: mental or bodily harm to others, said Christopher Harris, director of the office.

Harris said he has no plans to change the code because the university has no working definition for self-defense.

“I think for us to just throw self-defense into the code of conduct without defining it would be a big mistake,” he said.

A-4 violations include attempting or intentionally inflicting mental or bodily harm on another; causing another to think they are in danger of being harmed; sexual assault; any act of degrading, demeaning or disgracing another; or enticing another to participate in an act of membership in a student organization that could create or cause risks of mental or physical harm to another (e.g., hazing).

Students claiming self-defense are put through the traditional judiciary process and will have an opportunity to provide their sides of the story to a hearing board or officer, Harris said.

Factors taken into account when deciding the charges include merit and prior arrests, he said.

“There can be a lot of he-said, she-said when trying to figure out who started an altercation, but we take into consideration all factors,” Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi said. “We look at each incident on a case-by-case basis.”

Any Athens resident, student, and faculty or staff member can suggest a revision to the code of conduct, but the Review and Standards Committee must approve all added amendments before recommending approval by OU President Roderick McDavis or the Board of Trustees, Harris said.

“Before implementing it into policy, I do think it is a term that needs to be defined,” he said. “We, as well as our students, need to have a firm understanding of what is meant by self-defense.”

Representatives from Students Defending Students were unavailable for
comment.

jb351009@ohiou.edu
 

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