The small college and the campus discipline process: A qualitative inquiry into the student disciplinary processes of four small, private institutions of higher education.



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Abstract College and university student disciplinary processes have been, and continue to be, a significant and essential component of the higher education endeavor. Campus student discipline programs and processes serve to protect the persons and property of the college community, to develop and educate students in community living, citizenship, and future behavior, and to create and maintain an overall campus community conducive to the learning mission of the institution. Existing research on the student disciplinary process is primarily focused on large, research institutions, leaving the majority of small, private colleges and universities unexamined. Seventy-seven percent of colleges and universities in the United States enroll less than 5,000 students; sixty-two percent of institutions enroll less than 2,500 students (NCES, 2008), positing this subfield of institutions of higher education worthy of inquiry. Using a naturalistic, qualitative approach, I examined the purpose, nature, and perceived educational outcomes of the campus discipline programs at four small, private, institutions of higher education in the Southwestern United States. The four institutions served as the research participants in this study. Data collection included in-person interviews with ten discipline administrators at their home campus and document analysis of published campus discipline literature.
Research findings suggested that the student discipline processes at these small colleges contributed to a holistic approach to student formation and learning outside of the classroom. This student formation took place in intentional campus communities through deep, complex relationships with faculty, staff, and fellow students. These relationships informed the campus communities that ultimately depended on the student discipline processes for development and support. Beyond simply responding to student violations of community standards, these four colleges reported using the campus discipline processes to positively change the futures of students. The colleges’ perspective on student formation and learning was much greater than specific, episodic education. In these unique communities, student formation in the discipline process was purposed to transcend an isolated incident or occurrence to inform how students and their behavior relate to and engage with the entire college community. The researcher found that the student discipline process at the small, private college or university was a critical component of the educational mission of the institution, integral to community development, purposed for student formation and learning, and made up of multiple highly complex relationships.



Small colleges, Student discipline, Judicial affairs