Why do parents need to know about this?
We want to work with parents and encourage them to be partners in the process of our students’ living and learning experience. There may be times when your student calls, extremely upset, and your heart goes out. We understand this. We know that you care about your son or daughter and her/his happiness. We do too. That’s why we’d like to enlist you as partners in this process.
Think of a challenging time or situation in your life, something that really stands out for you. Ask yourself:
- What was the situation?
- How did I get by it?
- Did I learn anything through getting through it?
- Did anyone just solve the situation for me or did I have some part in solving it myself?
- Were there people around who supported me as I got through the situation?
So, if your student calls you and is upset, please partner with us to help her/him get through the difficult time the right way--with independence. We're sure you’ll agree that the best learning and growing take place when people feel empowered to solve problems and conflicts on their own.
What are Community Standards?
Community Standards allow the residents who share a floor community to define standards or rules for how they will treat each other and live together and how they will hold each other accountable if the Standards are violated.
While Community Standards can be seen as a product - a list of agreements and expectations, Community Standards is really an ongoing process by which students begin forming a healthy community through dialogue, compromise, and commitment. Community Standards evolve and therefore the process is never finished. Because Community Standards evolve, they should not be thought of as a task to be completed but as a means by which interactions occur.
An important aspect of Community Standards is discussing and deciding how students will hold themselves accountable for agreements and expectations. Discussing the issue of responsibility and accountability of each resident to every other resident can be difficult. This difficulty comes because many of students believe that someone else (i.e., a Residence Life staff member, Public Safety, etc.) is responsible for making sure that they get exactly what they want. Another way to think of this is that many of students also do not want to stand up for themselves. Equally difficult can be the thought of holding a peer to a standard.
Why have Community Standards?
In Residence Life at CSUN we believe that you, college students, are maturing adults. This means that you are making choices and learning from the outcomes of your choices. The young adult years are perceived as years of freedom, experimentation, limit finding, and limit testing. If the experiences during these years are to lead to an increased ability to make mature judgments then you must have the opportunity to make decisions so that you can experience the result of those decisions. An important area of decision making for college students concerns lifestyle and personal conduct.
Traditional college-age people typically reject "rules" imposed from the "outside." They may reject authorities who appear to be trying to deny them their "freedom" or independence." At the very same time they may become angry with authorities who don't meet their needs at the time when they want their needs met. Community Standards provides a means by which your expectations of the authority to meet your needs are shifted to a recognition that the individual and the community must work together to create an environment that best meets everyone's needs. The authority (in this case, a Resident Advisor) becomes a person who helps this process to happen instead of someone who fixes things for you or someone who always punishes behavior not in line with expectations.
If every student lived in perfect isolation, he or she could choose any manner of conduct. In reality, we exist within a tightly networked society. This means our behavior impacts other people, and in the same way, other people's behavior. Because we are affected by one another's behavior, we tend to have expectations about what we consider O.K. for the other person to do. We may or may not realize that our behavior affects others or we may believe that everyone has the same expectations that we have. This last concept can extend to a point where we believe that everyone has the same expectations at the same time (e.g., if I want to listen to music now, everyone wants to listen to music now).
If we are to live together in reasonable harmony, we must have the opportunity to express our expectations of how we want to be affected by others. By discussing these expectations you hear the range of expectations and therefore have a harder time holding on to the belief that everyone does "X" or that everyone wants the same thing that you want. Out of an awareness of expectations, you and your peers can discuss your different expectations and come to agreement on ways that you can live with the differences or compromise around the differences. This process may not be easy because it requires many people to achieve new understandings and new behaviors quickly. One of these is the ability to consider another's point of view as being valid and thus needing to be taken into consideration in one's own point of view.
The context of learning created by the Community Standards discussion can be a powerful tool to encourage student development and a healthy community. It can encourage students to build self-esteem through declaring themselves, through assertive interactions, and through the empowerment that comes from group agreement. By establishing Community Standards and shared responsibility, students are empowered to deal with problems before they occur.
What about Residence Life and University Policies and Procedures?
We still will have policies and procedures by which all residents must abide. They represent the basic safety and management issues necessary to assure reasonable quality-of-life for all residents. Primarily they establish minimum behavioral expectations and are in agreement with local, state, and federal laws. Community Standards do not replace these, nor may they violate these. These policies and procedures are of such basic nature that they should not impede a Community's ability to create the standards they desire.
How are Community Standards developed?
Community Standards are developed through group discussion and consensus. Through this format each resident is afforded the opportunity to assert his/her point of view. An underlying tenet of this system is the belief that in order to have one's needs met, one must accept responsibility for participation in the system designed to negotiate one's needs. Through implementing the Community Standards model, we are providing the opportunity for you to learn that you are responsible for your experience, and that you are not simply passive recipients of your experience. Recognition of this concept can lead to personal empowerment.