As it becomes more common, identity theft is now being
prosecuted by the University under its Statement of Student Rights
and Responsibilities — known as “the code”
— which regulates student conduct.

According to a new report by the Office of Student Conflict
Resolution, the body that enforces the code, three University
students have been charged with identity theft in the last
year.

The report, released last month, is the first full-year report
outlining the numbers and types of violations of the code handled
by OSCR. From July 2003 to June 2004, students were charged with
273 violations, including assault, illegal substance use, hazing,
vandalism and identity theft.

Students who violate the student code are subject to punishments
including community service, counseling and attending
workshops.

The most violations in a single category, 89, were for
“illegally possessing, using or distributing, manufacturing,
or selling alcohol or other drugs.”

All three of the students charged with identity theft sent
e-mails under the names of other University students, said OSCR
Director Keith Elkin.

OSCR added the violation into the code in July 2003 because of
increasing concern about identity theft, Elkin said. Identity theft
is defined as “assuming another person’s identity or
role through deception or without proper authorization,” but
it also includes using the credit card or driver’s license of
another person.

The University also launched a website last month,
identityweb.umich.edu, to help members of the University community
avoid identity theft.

OSCR mostly handles cases referred by the Department of Public
Safety and the Residence Hall Association, Elkin said. It mediates
and advises students’ conflicts as well as helps to protect
students’ rights as they are outlined in the code.

“Any member of the University can file a complaint with us
as well,” Elkin said.

OSCR will begin discussing possible amendments to the code
Wednesday at an open forum for the University community from 4 to 6
p.m. in Anderson Rooms C and D of the Michigan Union. “We are
trying to include members of the community as much as
possible,” Elkin said.

Students and faculty members are encouraged to give their input
for the amendments, which will be submitted on Nov. 1 by the
Michigan Student Assembly and the Senate Advisory Committee on
Student Affairs, Elkin said. They will then be evaluated by
University President Mary Sue Coleman.

Last year OSCR made several changes to the code. Identity theft
was added as a violation, and gender identity was included as one
of the subcategories under which students deserve “to be
treated fairly and with dignity,” the code states.

“To actually have it listed is a really powerful thing in
terms of adding them to those protected classes. It really shows
our commitment,” Elkin said.

Frederic MacDonald-Dennis, director of the Office of Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, said the protection of
gender identity “was a marvelous change and that it further
shows the University’s and Division of Student
Affairs’s commitment to all of our community members.

“I think students and community members really appreciated
it,” MacDonald-Dennis added. “I think that the
community feels better knowing it’s there and feel more
included, more valued.”

A student who has violated the code is required to go to OSCR.
Typically, students accept responsibility for the charge and then
adhere to sanctions imposed by OSCR, such as community service,
counseling or attending workshops, Elkin said.

“(Sanctions) are used as educational ways a student can
learn more about their behavior,” Elkin said. He added that
this helps prevent the behavior from recurring.

In only two cases in this past year did students not immediately
accept responsibility and instead appealed their charges. When this
happens, students have the opportunity to have their cases reviewed
by a faculty resolution officer or by a panel of five students.

In those two cases, both students chose to have a faculty member
review their cases, and both students were found responsible in the
end.

Elkin said he encourages students to apply to be student
panelists by visiting their website at www.umich.edu/~oscr.

Within the past year, OSCR has accelerated the number of
workshops it gives on conflict resolution. It also gave a workshop
for the School of Social Work.

“I think the biggest thing is being very proactive,”
Elkin said. “We’re trying to get out in the community
and talk about conflict resolution. It’s certainly a lifelong
skill.”

Elkin also said he’d eventually like to put together a
course on conflict resolution. “It’s on the wish
list,” he said.

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