Xavier Student Government Implements Service Alternative to First Offense Fines
In partial fulfillment of Xavier University’s Student Government Association’s (SGA) promise of representing student interests, Pat Schlembach is SGA’s first student conduct liaison. His first task has been to design and implement a new Service Alternative to Documentation Fines program on campus.
The program is for first-time, non-major and non-violent offenders of Xavier’s Student Code of Conduct. The expectation is that the offenses most likely to be eligible for this option will be related to alcohol (underage consumption, alcohol in room), disorderly house, marijuana (consumption, possession, paraphernalia), and noise. Average fines are between $100-$200 and students work for a “rate” of $10 per hour.
“It is important to note,” says Schlembach, “that participation in the program is at the sole discretion of the director of residence life or off-campus housing director. After a student is found responsible, the staff director - not resident assistants - will decide if the student is eligible to participate. Upon being informed of eligibility, the student has up to 14 days to decide between the program or paying the fine.”
Students will be placed in five types of organizations: environmental, tutoring, religious, English as a second language/multi-national, and marginalized populations (e.g., elderly and homeless). The goal is to best match them with students’ interests, resulting in greater passion for the organization and the work.
Students may request a specific organization, but most will be assigned based on mutual availabilities with host agencies. They must have a "Completion of Hours" form signed each week by a supervisor. After all hours are completed, the student signs and submits the form to Schlembach, who follows up with an email confirmation from the supervisor.
A number of factors make the Service Alternative to Documentation Fines Program (SAP) a good option. Many students have expressed a desire to find an alternate means of paying fines and making things right with the university. The current SGA executives (Seth Walsh, Kristin Sanfillippo and Matt Morefield) used the suggestions to outline a proposal to director of residence life Lori Lambert and other Xavier administrators. The collaboration resulted in a way of providing restitution for first-time offenses without a cash outlay, and one that hopefully lessens the possibility of repeat violations.
“It also furthers Xavier’s culture of being men and women for others through an uncommon medium – the University conduct system,” adds Schlembach. “It enables students to fulfill their conduct obligations while serving in our community. Its roots are in the selflessness of the Jesuit mission which guides Xavier’s approach to student life. The students who will participate made a mistake and were caught. A cash fine teaches a student just not to get caught. It offers no remediation and very little education. Hands-on work offers far more. It is my hope that students enjoy and learn at every single organization. When students are enjoying themselves, they will learn the most. This fits with the goal of Xavier’s conduct system, that it be more educational than merely punitive.”
Schlembach, from Sylvania, Ohio, is a senior history major at Xavier in the Philosophy, Politics and the Public honors program. He has been involved with Xavier’s SGA for the past three years.
This program reaches out beyond Xavier to a number of diverse organizations serving different populations throughout the city. In its mission as well as its campus design, Xavier professes to be a university embedded and engaged in the community. This program is just another physical manifestation of that commitment.
At the rate of $10 an hour, each student will work between 10-20 hours. Even if only 100 students participate this first year, Xavier students will have volunteered 1,000 more hours than they might have otherwise. That the students were drawn to service as a result of making a mistake only reinforces the value of the good their time well spent can accomplish. And, they may enjoy it so much that it turns into a regular occurrence.