University of Iowa increases education to cut down on bad behavior
Fewer students evicted from residence halls
Maybe it was the beer-pong tournaments he organized in his dorm room as an underage University of Iowa freshman in 2008. Maybe it was the Back Street Boys rendition he sang over a megaphone from his dorm window as a sophomore.
It probably was the beer pong, former UI student Seth Roberts admitted.
“Eventually they were headhunting us and writing us up for anything they could think of,” Roberts, 22, told The Gazette. “They put me on probation for a year and said if anything else major happened, they would evict me.”
Roberts, who said he’s taking a year off school and plans to return to the UI next year as a super-senior, said he spent three years in the residence halls and racked up 11 violations in that time, along with several terms of probation and letters warning of eviction.
“They never actually officially evicted me, but they gave me a longer leash than they could have,” said Roberts, who is from Los Angeles and living in Iowa City today. “I was a jerk when I was younger.”
From the 2009-10 school year to the 2011-12 school year, more than three dozen UI students were not as lucky as Roberts. According to records compiled by the UI Office of the Dean of Students and provided to The Gazette, the UI canceled 39 housing contracts because of disciplinary issues over the last three school years.
The dorm that saw the most cancellations during that time was Hillcrest, with nine, followed by Mayflower and Rienow, which both had seven. Daum and Parklawn had no evictions.
The violation most often cited for contract cancellation was drugs followed by alcohol.
UI housing officials said they’ve recently ramped up efforts to educate students about what can get them kicked out, and they’ve increased enforcement of violations in hopes of deterring bad behavior.
Greg Thompson, assistant director for residence life, said those initiatives appear to be working with the number of canceled residence hall contracts falling from 21 in the 2009-10 school year to 11 the following year and seven last year.
“I think it’s certainly encouraging to see that some of those efforts have paid off — ultimately we would love to see those numbers at zero,” Thompson said. “We want to create an environment where students can be successful, and we are continuing to improve on that type of environment.”
Thompson said he thinks the UI has remained consistent in how it responds to violations of the Code of Student Life and residence hall policies, and he said the falling eviction numbers tell him fewer violations are being committed.
“The students are getting the message,” he said. “That’s what it tells me.”
Terms and conditions
When UI students move into one of the 10 residence halls on campus, they sign a contract that comes with a set of terms and conditions and lays out reasons the UI could cancel the agreement. They include withdrawal from the UI, marriage, military deployment and disciplinary issues. (Story continues below photo)
The top disciplinary issues that can get students evicted include keeping large amounts of alcohol in the room, having or consuming drugs or paraphernalia, bringing weapons into the dorms, committing physical or sexual assault and tampering with fire equipment — like pulling the fire alarm.
Thompson said unless the violation is significant and egregious, it typically takes more than one violation to earn a cancellation notice. Residence hall coordinators — which are different from the residence hall advisers they oversee — can investigate minor offenses and impose some sanctions.
Serious misconduct warranting contract cancellation is handled by a director or an assistant director with the Housing and Dining department or the Office of the Dean of Students. Often, if an offense is serious enough, eviction is the least of the students’ concerns.
Beside possible criminal charges, students found responsible for aggravated assault, sexual abuse, selling drugs, intentionally setting a fire, tampering with fire equipment or threatening another person with a dangerous weapon usually are suspended or expelled from school.
“You don’t get a second chance on those,” Thompson said. “The cumulative stuff is the alcohol and drug violations.”
Not all of a person’s violations have to occur in the residence halls to warrant eviction, Thompson said. Criminal convictions also can impact a person’s standing in the dorms.
“We work with the Dean of Students Office in terms of tracking students who are having violations in multiple places,” he said. “If you have had a violation off campus, it factors into the equation.”
Students can appeal an eviction — although some might still have to move out immediately if the threat is considered urgent and immediate, according to Thompson. And much of the cost if refunded to students who are kicked out, he said.
Within the past few years, the UI changed how — and when — it presents this information to students in an effort to cut down on bad behavior. New dorm residents now have to attend a mandatory policy meeting within 24 hours of moving in.
The UI takes attendances at those meetings, which are led by UI staff, and it follows up with students who don’t make it, Thompson said.
“We wanted to get that information in front of them quicker,” he said.
UI freshman Jasmine Rigby, 18, of Red Oak, said she lives in Currier and thinks that early meeting gave everyone a fair warning.
“I think it definitely lets you know what you should and shouldn’t do,” she said, adding that she thinks the students on her floor are taking it all too seriously. “I’m actually complaining because my hall is so quiet.”
As much as Roberts complained about the 11 violations he earned while in the UI residence halls, he admitted he deserved “some” of them.
“Some things should be policed — like the underage drinking,” he said. “They probably should be keeping an eye out for that.”
By the numbers
The University of Iowa has made an educational push in recent years to curb bad behavior in its 10 residence halls. They say the falling eviction numbers show those efforts are working
Evictions per residence hall
Evictions by violation
Drug policy: 19
Alcohol policy: 13
Sexual misconduct: 3
Violating no contact order: 1
*There are more violations than canceled contracts because some cancellations involved multiple violations.
Source: University of Iowa Housing and Dining