Community colleges making ‘Code of Conduct’ for applying students

A new law could pass this year for community colleges concerning potential students. In the law, colleges can deny applicants who pose a threat to themselves or others, whether health wise or for safety reasons. This could be verbal threats, gun violence, or talking of suicide.

Colleges who refuse admission to a potential student must then document when and why of the refusal. An appeals process must be executed by a board of trustees to insure fairness.

Megen Hoenk, spokesperson for the NC Community College System (NCCCS), compared the new rule as a “Code of Conduct” for applying students.

“Our community colleges have been implementing a Student Code of Conduct for years that speaks for current students,” said Hoenk. “(The law) speaks to potential students. It gives colleges the tools to balance that open door policy while still maintaining safety of students and faculty.”

While Hoenk said the law was not in relation to any recent shootings like Virginia Tech, the president of Southwestern Community College in Sylva, Richard Collings, disagreed.

“It’s a reaction to some degree on the violence that has gone on with disturbed individuals who shot people,” said Collings.

However, even with shootings at Virginia Tech or the Arizona shooting, the new policy did not appear out-of-the-blue.

Collings said, “This kind of thing has been brewing in higher education for awhile.”

Collings has been president of Southwestern for only a year, but has seen college gun violence before during his time in college when there was a potential threat. The president said that colleges are “safe places,” including Southwestern, but the rule is being created as a precaution.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Collings said about the rule, “but we’re not going to look over our shoulders.”

Southwestern has never experienced gun violence, and Collings insisted that someone would have to be “pretty extreme” to be denied admission based on just an application process. More interaction has to occur in Collings’ opinion for there to be an assumption that an individual is dangerous.

While the law is not yet in effect, it was brought forward by the State Board in August. Community college board of trustees would then adopt the policy if they so choose should the law be passed this April.

“It would be up to each individual college,” Hoenk said.