Nervous about starting at Michigan State? Worried about your class schedule, living away from home, or where to even start? The Spartan Orientation Station (SOS) is a podcast hosted by New Student Orientation staff and was created by students for students. This podcast will launch twice a week throughout the summer, and each episode will feature a unique interview with campus departments discussing their services, common misconceptions, and fun Spartan engagement opportunities. When you need help at Michigan State, it is okay to signal SOS! Don’t worry – MSU is there for you.
You're listening to the Spartan orientation station on Impact 89FM, the podcasts by students for students. Now, this week's episode.
Abigail Arsenault (0:18)
Welcome back to the Spartan Orientation Station. This episode, we are discussing the Office of Student Support and Accountability, also known as OSSA. They support student success by ensuring a civil and inclusive learning environment based on academic and personal integrity, also supports personal and community accountability and addresses can't conduct inconsistent with the Spartan code of honor with honesty, respect and fairness. My name is Abigail, I'm a rising senior here at Michigan State with a major in Social Work and a minor in Justice, Law and Public Policy.
Lauren Calhoun (0:53)
And today, we have Jake Casper, and we also are joined by Ric Schaefer from the Office of OSSA. Thank you for joining us today. My name is Lauren Calhoun. I'm a recent graduate from MSU with a major in Psychology, and I had the same minors as Abby, Law, Justice, and Public Policy. So if you guys could just go ahead and introduce yourselves and kind of explain the roles that are at OSSA, and then what the office provides for students.
Jake Casper (1:10)
Again, thanks so much for having us. I am Jake Casper, and I'm here with my colleague, Rick Schaefer. I'll let him introduce himself. But we're just super excited to be here to talk with the incoming Spartans and super excited to talk about our office, the Office of Student Support and Accountability. Rick, do you want to say anything there?
Rick Schaffer (1:34)
Sure. So, Rick Shaffer. I'm actually a two-time alum. And I have two sons who graduated from Michigan State University. As of Monday, it will be my 23rd year, and my postmasters career at MSU, I did work at three other institutions before coming back to my alma mater.
Jake Casper (1:53)
Would you share with the students what you study is that –
Rick Schaffer (1:56)
What I studied in undergrad?
Jake Casper (1:57)
Rick Schaffer (1:57)
I was a Communication Arts and Sciences major.
Abigail Arsenault (1:59)
Rick Schaffer (1:59)
And a master's degree in Physical Education - Exercise Science. I thought I was going to be an athletic director or director of rec. sports, and I'm obviously not.
Jake Casper (2:08)
That's awesome. But I can go ahead and talk about our office. In our office, you know, in our, on our team, we really seek to support students. As you already mentioned earlier, Abby talked about how our office is focused on equity, integrity, and the learning and the process and processes for students. And these processes can be formal hearings, adjudication processes, and it can also be informal, conflict resolution, conflict coaching, and how we can support students. But the big importance of our office is we work with students to provide support for students and help them, whether it's personal, organizational, or academic integrity issues, or challenges that come up. And also our care and intervention, conflict resolution, different things that we just that we have in place to give students full support. And again, that could also be through medical amnesty and medical leave and return process. So, I'm excited to talk more about each of these things. But these are many of the different resources we provide in our office.
Lauren Calhoun (3:17)
Right, thank you. Um, so just kind of leaning into what you just talked about. So what kind of issues do you deal with that students come to you about?
Jake Casper (3:28)
Life happens, you know, and when students come in students, and they're really trying to balance and find their place in the community. And so there's many issues that may come up, whether it's conflict with each other, you know, maybe it's a roommate conflict, maybe it's a challenge with a faculty member, or staff on campus. Or maybe they have made some poor, personal choices around substance use, or different things that may be, I would say, against policy, and there's different procedures and policies that we have in place. Those are the type of issues that we would see where a student may have a concern about that. I would say also, on the support side, those students having a mental health concern, or maybe they broke their leg while they were skateboarding one weekend, and, and they need to withdraw from the university, whatever those type of things. I'd like to think that we're a one stop shop to give students whatever support so if they're not sure where to go, this is a great spot for them to start and ask and we're happy to help.
Rick Schaffer (4:33)
I think it would be fair to say that we frequently refer people to another office, because the thing that they need or want is not something that we directly facilitate, but I think it's appropriate for us to know where to send folk. I think the other thing I would just add to what Jake said is that when you have a dense population of people, primarily at that 18 to 23-year-old age, they're going from being fairly dependent, perhaps, depending on their lived experience, to a pretty independent existence, or as my recently graduated sons would say, that being an adult, becoming an adult isn't all good. And so sometimes, there's that, "I have to make choices and live with the consequences of those choices." And so and then, so they can end up in conflict with other people, you can end up in conflict with your own values, you might be struggling with what those things are, figuring out who you are, and that can be a challenging road. And I think maybe harder today than in many respects, maybe it ever was. And so I think we're part of that bridge between learning to be independent and interdependent, and recognizing that everything that we do, and the things that happen around us affect other people. So, I think we helped negotiate some of that, some of that space. And then, you know, to do's Jake's point, the support side is the side that typically feels the best to us, you know, we have somebody who gets really sick or really hurt, and they're unable to complete their education and feeling like, "I'm going to fail out of the university," there's nowhere for--to go, for them to go, our office is a place they can go, and we can help them figure out how to get back on track when they're ready to do so.
Abigail Arsenault (6:19)
Gotcha. And kind of building off of that, let's just say, for example, I have a problem with one of my roommates, and I need to resolve a conflict with them. What do those next steps look like in terms of filing? Would I just, like, go to the website? Would I come down to the office? What does that kind of look like? And other examples of other things that students might need to come to you for.
Rick Schaffer (6:41)
Sure. So I'll take your roommate one. So –
Abigail Arsenault (6:44)
Like, that’s a common one.
Rick Schaffer (6:45)
It is. And,--
Jake Casper (6:48)
And I would say it's part of growing up.
Abigail Arsenault (6:50)
Oh, I agree.
Jake Casper (6:51)
It's part of being a student, it's part of developing as humans. I mean, that is, it is a natural occurrence.
Rick Schaffer (6:56)
And I've been married for 31 years. And so it's also part of life. And my, my, my, my wife has far more complaints than I do, I'm sure. But, I guess what I would say is that, so, if we think about our intersection with students at the university, there's a couple of ways to think about it: Are we trying to help you be successful just in the moment, just for your time at the university, or for the lifetime? And so when Jake mentioned we work with people, right? So, if you come to us with a concern about your roommate, we want to help you develop the skills and capacity to do that on your own, not just have somebody solve it for you. And so if you're not feeling like you have the ability, or the words, or the language, or the tools to do that, the university hires people who live on residence hall floors to help students with those things, they're called RAs. And we also have aids on our campus as well, who work for the Office of Culture and Academic Transitions. We have live-in staff members who are grad students, we have live-in staff members who are full time employees. And so, from your example, I would start with, let's start with the lowest common denominator in terms of energy and number of people to be involved in the potential for an adversarial sort of process. So, first thing I would say is, "Start with your roommate," and if that's not successful, you go to your RA, or you go to somebody else who can help you with, "What is the language I need to use? How do I help?" We'll do that.
Abigail Arsenault (8:25)
Rick Schaffer (8:25)
But, it is, there are times when it rises to "I've tried all the other stuff, it's not working," or perhaps "It's so serious, that I don't feel safe," right, would be an example. So sometimes, there are times when people actually end up calling the police department for things. But, our officers would most likely get involved when a student says, "My roommate is doing things that make it very, very difficult for me to continue to be a student and to live in this space, and what they're doing violates university policy." So, Jake mentioned alcohol and other drugs, you know, could be other sorts of just the kinds of things that happen when people live together. And so, they would, they can--I think the safest thing to do is to say that, people can call us, they can email us, I think you've got that information, as well. Our email address is super easy to remember if you remember the name, it's OSSA, O-S-S-A, email@example.com. But we would probably want to talk you through like, "What is it that you're concerned about? What is it your goals are? How do you--What would a good outcome look like?" And then, "To what degree would the processes the institution afford you help you meet those?" I'm going to use an example, if you have a problem with your roommate because of noise, and you've never spoken to your roommate, believe it or not, we have people whose parents then call the president of the university, say—
Jake Casper (9:50)
Don’t do that.
Lauren Calhoun (9:53)
Rick Schaffer (9:54)
That's not--That's not a reasonable life skill. Because, when you leave the university, they're who you're gonna call. So, you know, we want to give people the school, the tools and the skills to work these things out on their own.
Lauren Calhoun (10:07)
All right. So, if I'm having some issues with the roommate, let's just keep going off of that example.
Rick Schaffer (10:13)
Lauren Calhoun (10:14)
But if I was having issues with a roommate, and I was just kind of nervous about it all, would I be able to bring a friend with me to, kind of, file a complaint, to accompany me during that time?
Rick Schaffer (10:25)
Absolutely. So for you came to the office, in person, which is in the Student Services building across the street from the Broad Art Museum, and for those who haven't seen the movie Batman vs. Superman. That was Lex Luthor's house in the movie. Yeah, come and see us. Our office feels like a living room if you've never been there,--
Jake Casper (10:43)
And we've got candy.
Rick Schaffer (10:44)
And we've got candy.
Lauren Calhoun (10:45)
Okay, I might stopping by.
Rick Schaffer (10:47)
And let's just be clear, it's the good candy.
Jake Casper (10:50)
Rick Schaffer (10:51)
Like, you know, a Baby Ruth bar or a Snickers bar, like it's substantive. It's not just little Smarties. So,--
Jake Casper (10:58)
I can't stand it when they have Whoppers or Dum-Dums. And I'm like, these are the worst.
Abigail Arsenault (11:03)
I'm the same way.
Rick Schaffer (11:04)
Whoppers are good. I like Whopper. So I'm gonna have to, I'm gonna have to call the out on that one, Jake.
Abigail Arsenault (11:08)
So you guys have the good stuff.
Rick Schaffer (11:09)
We have the good stuff. Of course, right? I mean, we sometimes have students who are going to come in where English is not their first language. And having a friend or a colleague or somebody who can help with interpretation if needed. We, sometimes, folks who have an accommodation needs, and so having a colleague, or somebody from one of our colleagues from the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, they might come and help that person sort of stay centered, or maybe help understand the process that's at, or help, frankly, us understand how the student is experiencing the process. So absolutely. Where there are some limitations are in the more formal processes, where we're going through something we call adjudication, where there's going to be private information about other students involved. And as a student, you all have federally protected rights to privacy. And so, we don't have the authority to just release your private information. Some of it can be information you really don't want third parties to know, somebody's friend to hear. And so, we have to respect that. Those rights as well.
Abigail Arsenault (12:20)
All right, and now kind of moving on, this is a very, I would say, a hot-button issue, because there are—
Lauren Calhoun (12:27)
Hot topics alert.
Abigail Arsenault (12:27)
Oh, yes. In terms of using AI in academic settings, and using chat GPT and all of those other
things. Do you guys have a specific policy on that? And the use of AI in academic setting and kind of what that looks like?
Jake Casper (12:46)
Absolutely, we can talk about that, too. I just feel like when you have a hot topic alert, there should be like a sizzle, sound effect or something.
Abigail Arsenault (12:53)
Right, we need a button or a horn.
Jake Casper (12:55)
This is like, this is hot-off-the-presses. It's, ahh man, it is a big topic. You're absolutely right. So, anyways, but for this hot topic of Chat GPT, or generative artificial intelligence, it is a big discussion that we've been having all year. I mean, ever since November when the 3.0 came out, and, and the different versions have come out. So, there's a lot of conversation about what, what can be done, what should be done. And how is chat GPT used in the classroom, should it be used in the classroom? Or is it a threat? Or is it a tool? Or, I mean, all these conversations are very helpful. We--there is not a specific policy about the use of Chat GPT. No university works that fast, frankly.
Abigail Arsenault (13:44)
Jake Casper (13:45)
And, and we don't really have something that will cover all things, every single situation, and, we all know, I think all of you around the table here, is this, tomorrow, it's going to be old news, and it's going to be something new. So, by the time anything gets approved, it would be already old information. So, what I, what we've been talking about, this is faculty staff and--and we've had some students as well, talking about, "How does Chat GPT help the learning environment on campus? Can it be a tool? How can faculty use it?" And so really, the big thing though, is every student, every single class, is you want to be aware and understanding of the faculty's approach to Chat GPT. We all know, some faculty, absolutely not, do not touch it, do not use it, and that will be all over their syllabus, and that's important for the students to know in that class. So, if you are taking a Poli-Sci class or, or a Human Biology class, and the faculty member says, "No, no Chat GPT is welcome. No generative AI. Know that, and then comply with that. And then, you may have some cutting-edge faculty member, and there are some hip people at the university. Ric Schaefer is one of them. There's, there's not a lot, but there's some. And so you might have some faculty that want to try it and say, "Hey, we're going to use this as a tool. We're going to make it unique." It just, it really is going to be up to each instructor, and how they tailor their coursework. For Chat GPT. The biggest mistake a student can make is to go into a class and assume that they are allowed to use it or not allowed to use. It's just really, it's important to be aware of that. And policy does allow for fact, each faculty to decide what they want to do. Does that makes sense? So, that policy covers everything? So good question, though. It is a hot topic, I think we're still trying to figure out what's the best way to use it.
Abigail Arsenault (15:44)
Because I've seen, I've had professors do both, because it's, like, fairly new. I remember, like in the spring semester, like a lot, because Social Work is very writing based. So they're like, no, don't use this. But I had some other professors were like, you can use it as a tool. So, I definitely agree. There are definitely two sides to the coin, so.
Lauren Calhoun (16:02)
Yeah, even in my like, Philosophy class that I took before I graduated. We had like, a whole section on like, machine and the mind, and Chat GPT was like, an entire topic. And we had to like, ask Chat GPT if it was like, conscious and all this stuff, it was actually kind of cool.
Abigail Arsenault (16:19)
That freaked me out a little bit.
Lauren Calhoun (16:19)
Yeah, but we use it as part of our like, curriculum, basically. So definitely, just make sure you're paying attention if you know with your professors. And like—
Jake Casper (16:22)
And really, going back to the purpose of why we're here. Why are we at the university? And that is to get an education; that is to learn. And so, if a tool is taking away that opportunity for you, for example, writing, or philosophy, you were saying, but just the whole writing process is part of learning. It's not just the end result of a paper that you're turning in, but how you're going to revise how you're going to craft your ideas, how you're going to engage with your reader, and all that kind of stuff. I mean, that's really important to kind of stay focused on the purpose of being learners, lifelong learners, and not getting bogged down into turning in a paper, you know, and that's where Chat GPT could be that just, that's going to be your end result, but you're losing that learning opportunity.
Lauren Calhoun (17:19)
Right. So kind of shifting gears a little bit. So there's a lot—
Jake Casper (17:22)
You need a sound effect for when you're shifting. Yeah, like a hawk or, yeah I love it.
Lauren Calhoun (17:29)
But, kind of shifting gears. So, there's a lot of student organizations offered on campus for students, but do you guys have any involvement with those student organizations?
Rick Schaffer (17:39)
Yes. So, there was a time, when we had more than 1000. And for some of our students, they come from institutions that had less than 1000 students, let alone organizations, right? So, the scope is phenomenal. I used to work in the Department of Student Life as it was called then, now call, the Office of Spartan Experiences, where those organizations get registered. Our involvement in, with student organizations comes in several forms, one of them is new, and that is the Student Organization Conduct Policy. So, if a student organization is violating university policy, violating the practices or policies of the institution, a faculty member or staff member or student can contact our office and say, you know, "this organization is harassing my organization," or "this organization is embezzling funds" or "this organization is involved in hazing." Our office will take those reports, we will investigate them, we will reach out to the organization have a conversation with them. Our office was recently charged with the formal responsibility of, then, deciding those cases this past fall. And so, sometimes organizations find themselves no longer registered as a student organization because of those behaviors. Sometimes, we investigate those things and find out there's just not enough information there for us to take an action on. What I really appreciate about our involvement with organizations is really around this conflict resolution stuff, in particular Restorative Justice. So, sometimes we have organizations who contact us and say, "We're not getting along with each other very well. We have some members who don't play well with other people. We've had some challenges with some of our organization, our events," or "We've been in conflict with another organization, but we really don't want to go through some formal, discipline thing, we don't, we're not going to get somebody in trouble. We want to resolve the conflict." And so we facilitated, we would, I would call them circles, probably the simplest way to explain to your audience but it is what it sounds like, a group of people sitting in a circle. It's a facilitated conversation, typically using a talking piece. And the point is to help people share what's happening from their perspective, the impact of that behavior on other people, and what they think is needed to make things right. Everybody gets a chance to have some say in that. And ideally, they come to a resolution, and, you know, I can tell you and tell your audience that I've never had somebody come to us afterward and say, "That was a waste of my time." Everybody universally says, "Wow, that was an interesting process, I found it useful." It often helps them find ways to address concerns that maybe they haven't yet voiced, but they found a way to use their voice. And also can help student leaders within an organization hear things, maybe in a way that they haven't heard before. So, lots of different ways. And we're also interested in helping the organization be successful going forward. So we can, we can assist with helping advise people on how they might onboard new folks, too. The Office of Spartan Experiences is really the place to begin that, but we can partner with folks.
Lauren Calhoun (21:01)
All right, thank you.
Rick Schaffer (21:02)
Abigail Arsenault (21:03)
And so, kind of going off of what, maybe a hearing board looks like, if you could just kind of give us some examples of some of those things, maybe some descriptions, because I see here on the website, there are a couple of different boards, like, for example, the Residence Hall Area Board, the All University Student Hearing Board, and various other examples. So if you could kind of like, describe what those look like, and what the process for those looks like.
Jake Casper (21:30)
Absolutely. So, we oversee and advise seven different hearing boards. And they're, they're full of faculty, staff and student volunteers that serve on a hearing board. And they help when there's a formal process. So, and you've heard from Rick and I talking a lot about circles and conflict and helping students and we really try to mitigate or take care of those issues up front, but sometimes there's that formal process, and that's necessary when a complaint gets to that part. And that's where the hearing board would come in. What's really kind of cool about the hearing boards is all seven of our hearing boards have students as part of it. And really, the Student Rights and Responsibilities really focuses on the student voice. So whenever someone is going through the process, if anytime a student's going through the process, they can always rest assured that there is a student voice on that hearing board or that adjudication board. So the different boards vary depending on the type of violation, allegation, you know, there's an academic hearing board. And that would, obviously, involve faculty as well as students. So we had, we had those hearing boards. And then we have the RHAB, which is the Residence Hall Association board, so that has residents for resident violations, and they would adjudicate those boards. And then, we've got other types of boards for, that involved as faculty, staff and faculty as well as students on that board as well. But it, again, it's always multiple people that our office will train, prepare for these hearings to make sure that it's equitable, inclusive, and it has integrity, and that they truly are hearing the case and hearing the situation.
Rick Schaffer (23:23)
Can I just do a quick ad just for, kind of a macro piece? So when we use the term hearing, generally speaking, what we're saying is, there are at least two parties involved, we're not in agreement about what happened, and or what should be done about it. And, and one party who is accused of wrongdoing is saying I didn't do it, or I don't believe it violated the university policy. And so we employ hearing or we get the parties together. And a third party, like a hearing board, will hear everybody and then they'll ask questions and try to decide what happens. But I want to put it in some context. Some people think everything goes to a hearing, we get 1000s of complaints a year, about personal—
Jake Casper (24:06)
Rick Schaffer (24:08)
about personal misconduct, so like maybe things like involving a roommate, that's really outside the academic realm. Or alleged academic misconduct, right? or student organizations? About 90% of those, maybe more, probably get resolved with the party saying, "It's true. I did do this, and I'm willing to accept responsibility." Lauren, you seem surprised by that.
Lauren Calhoun (24:31)
I am. Yeah. But I'm also not I'm I'm not surprised, because you guys are amazing at what you do. That's what you're here for.
Rick Schaffer (24:39)
You're, You're very kind, but I'm gonna give your cohort the credit for that. Not us.
Lauren Calhoun (24:43)
Yes. But, I also am surprised, because just depending on, I guess it depends on the situation. Like, if it was harassment or like, like you said, like substance abuse and things like that, like I just know, some people act like, you know, "I didn't do anything," and I don't know, it's just a little weird.
Rick Schaffer (25:04)
So here's, here's what I would say about this. I think that our processes certainly help that right. If you're not risking, you know, imprisonment, right? There's not the same level of risk for saying, "Yes, this is true, I did it," right? Certainly, the more serious the allegation, the more likely someone is to say, "What do I have to lose?" Right? But, here's what I think it means, is that I do believe most people are honest. Most people are willing to be held accountable. If the process they're going through is fair and reasonable, and the outcomes are something that they think are acceptable. So, I think we can get some credit for that. But, I also think there's a narrative out there that everybody lies, and everybody cheats, and everybody's, you know, out for themselves. I don't think that's true. And I think our students prove that all the time. And, you know, if nine out of ten are coming in and saying this is true, I think that says something about you and your colleagues more than it does about us.
Jake Capser (25:04)
It's a Spartan way, you know, it's way I like to look at it.
Lauren Calhoun (25:17)
So kind of shifting, mentioning on what you said earlier about somebody--
Jake Casper (26:13)
I was shifting, I was shifting with my hands, I just want to make sure you all knew that.
Lauren Calhoun (26:19)
I remember you saying how, if somebody had, like medical issues, and they just needed help catching up and things like that. So, just kind of mentioning medical amnesty, what is that? How does it work? What does medical amnesty cover? And like, what doesn't it cover?
Rick Schaffer (26:37)
Lauren Calhoun (26:37)
Its, just kind of go over that.
Rick Schaffer (26:38)
I’m gonna, I’m gonna actually, because I think at some point, you’re gonna to ask us about maybe medical leave and return, I’m goin to put these together and then,
Abigail Arsenault (26:54)
Rick Schaffer (26:54)
Right. But, had he been at Michigan State University, he would have up to a year to request a medical leave for, obviously, very good reasons, and he wouldn't have had to fail that semester. Now, he would have been out of the refund, right, because it's way at the end of the semester. But he could have gotten withdrawals instead of zeros for those grades, come back and recovered and would not be in academic Jeopardy at that point. So, that's the medical leave and return process. And it doesn't have to be a physical injury, it can be mental health, it can be number or it could be, we also have a grief absence policy and institution, our office doesn't deal with that, but, you know, your, your grandmother dies, right, and that's just so traumatic. So, so medical leave and return is about that leaving the semester. Medical amnesty is a policy designed to mirror that, which was passed by the state of Michigan a few years ago, to encourage people to seek help for someone who is struggling with a substance. So, you know, if a student who is so intoxicated they can't walk, or they're having trouble speaking, or they're they're, they're vomiting, right? And, we want people to call for help. We don't want the fear that you're going to get in trouble to keep you from calling for assistance. I, unfortunately, in my career have sat with people who did not call and their friend died right in front of them. And the reason that they didn't call was, because they thought their friend or they would get in trouble. And whatever you did, whatever the policy violation is not secondary, it's way down the line to living. So the policy was put in place in our office along with residential, education, housing services, and other campus partners, Counseling Center, and so on, have said if you call for help for you, or for a friend, the person who calls and the person who needs assistance is not going to face the university discipline. We may ask you to educate yourself about alcohol or other drugs, but the goal is not to create a disciplinary record. And so we hope everybody talks about that, right? See, you here, "See Something, Say Something," we mean that literally.
Abigail Arsenault (29:37)
Rick Schaffer (29:38)
Right. And so that's, does that. So I went kind of off-field a little bit for question, but you know, you can't graduate and success, succeed in life if you don't survive. So let's start with some very basic pieces, and then where do you need help and support reasonable help and support? To graduate Again, our goal is to see a graduate and go on to do other things not to stop that.
Abigail Arsenault (30:00)
Right. I think that's really important to reiterate, and like you said, unfortunately, some students don't know about that, and they think if, you know, they're underage, they're gonna get into trouble. And then they can't help their friend. And then, unfortunately, those bad things happen, and, because I've also heard stories, and I bet Lauren has, too,--
Lauren Calhoun (30:17)
Abigail Arsenault (30:17)
And it's just one of those things that I think all students should know about.
Rick Schaffer (30:23)
And their lived experience with authority may be the barrier, right? So the reality is, you're not gonna, like the idea of reaching out to somebody in power is so scary.
Abigail Arsenault (30:33)
Yeah, it is scary.
Rick Schaffer (30:35)
But you know, and they don't know Jake and I, and they, they probably don't know you personally, but you can look it up. It is a policy, it's, it's on the university's website, you can look up medical amnesty and say, "I can hold the institution accountable for this, you said you're gonna do this. And if you don't do it, now, I've got a complaint." Right?
Abigail Arsenault (30:53)
Right. And kind of on our last leg here, as someone in Social Work, and as someone who is also very intrigued by the Restorative Justice piece, and I know we could talk for hours, in very long time about this, but kind of going off of that. There are other ways to resolve conflict. So there's the adjudication, conflict coaching, and also restorative justice, kind of, what do those individual processes look like? How long do they take? Is it a case by case basis? Kind of explaining those things, little snippet into each?
Jake Casper (31:33)
And I think Rick, and I could talk about this for hours. This is definitely a passion area for both of us. But we really, conflict it's all around us. And, and we really, there's two things that we really focused on is one, is conflict is inevitable, and combat is optional. So I think restorative justice really talks about how do we have conflict and restore one another back into the community? And, and Rick will talk some more on that but just, with the Restorative Justice, we are focused on the circle, we are focused on, "How do we identify the harm? How do we identify what went wrong?" And once we've identified that, "How do we repair it? How do we fix it?" And this is kind of goes back to our underlying philosophy for the offices doing things with the student, not to the student. Doing it with community members, not to the community members, and, and there's so much power in that, when you empower someone to say, "I'm sorry, I screwed up." Restorative Justice requires students to say, I messed up, it was my fault, in order for us to do restorative justice, because if we don't allow for that, then there's, there's no purpose in going into this process. And we, and Rick and I'll talk some more about some of this example, of these examples, but, when a student or faculty staff or family members, when we are held accountable, sometimes in our, and we have this criminal justice model that basically says, "You get caught you're punished," but what Restorative Justice is, you're being held accountable, and you are part of the solution, you know, rather than, "We're punishing you," we are saying, "How can you fix it? Thank you for being honest and taking accountability. How can how can, we as a group, as a community, fix that?" So that's just my initial take, but I, Rick lives and breathes this, so I definitely want to give him the opportunity to jump in on this as well.
So your question started with kind of conflict and I know that you're interested in in
Rick Schaffer (33:47)
So your question started with kind of conflict and I know that you're interested in in RJ. A couple caveats: One, I think conflict has a bad name. We think that conflict is inherently negative, that often brings feelings up for us. But let's be honest, education exists because of conflict. Right? Our ancestors believed the world was flat. If conflict was not a good thing, no one would have been able to ever challenge that idea, and we'd still believe it's flat. Right? Medicine. Right? Our seatbelts when I was a young person, we were told this is gonna tell you how old I am, that wearing a seatbelt will kill you. Why? Because it will trap you in a car that's going to blow up in an accident. Now we know that that's silly. Airbags were bad because they were going to cause accidents. Can you imagine getting in a car right now without wearing your seatbelt, and not having an airbag? Right? Different things. So, conflict in and of itself isn't a bad thing. To Jake's point, how we resolve conflict is the key. And so, what I would say this is that, so, for me, my understanding of Restorative Justice, and I'm on about a 15-18 year journey somewhere there. And I don't, sometimes people say, "You're an expert," I'm not an expert. These are practices that are 10,000 years old, or older, or more, certainly, as long as homo-sapiens have been around, and living in community, living in tribes, living in villages, people have not had a third party, a government, an agency to go to, they had to work these things out on their own, you are accountable to the persons you harmed. That's how our ancestors resolve these things. And so, RJ is, in my view, returning back to a concept, I know Jake and I talked about, which is South Africans term, "ubuntu", U-B-U-N-T-U, which means, "I am because you are. I don't exist apart from you. We live in community, we're connected. "Everything I do.--"
Abigail Aresnault (35:36)
I like that.
Rick Schaffer (35:36)
Everything I do affects you, including the good. So let's maximi- to me, RJ is really about, "how do we maximize the good and minimize the bad?" And we best to do that when we do it together when we do it with people, not when we do it to them, or when we do it for them. And, to take it a step further, we don't have to wait for something to go bad. We don't have to only practice this in response to a thing that happened. We can build community connection, relationship, in a restorative way before harm is caused. Because, we also know, people are less likely, generally speaking, to harm people that they have a connection.
Abigail Arsenault (36:31)
Lauren Calhoun (36:31)
That was deep.
Rick Schaffer (36:33)
That gives me goosebumps. I don't know about you.
Abigail Arsenault (36:35)
Rick Schaffer (36:37)
Not my words, I stole them from somebody else.
Abigail Arsenault (36:39)
Cuz like, going back to like, that mine-well, when I did mine, it was called like a peace circle. I don't know, like circle, whatever name. When I did mine, it was very, I did not expect that level of understanding from everyone, because everyone's kind of hearing each other out. So it's like, "What were you thinking at the time? What do you think should happen going forward?" Other questions like, "What do you think?" Yeah, "needs to happen? What was the hardest thing for you? What have you thought about sense?" And all those different questions, I think are so important. And I think everyone should take that route in terms of resolving those conflicts, because like you said, they're not inherently negative or don't have to be. So.
Rick Schaffer (37:22)
We have trained ourselves as a culture to become junior investigators, so when something happens, we start asking questions, like, we're going to decide what actually happened.
Jake Casper (37:30)
And actually, I would say, in addition to training ourselves to be investigators, we are also very quick to just call someone else to fix it. Call the pest control to come and get rid of that raccoon.
Abigail Arsenault (37:44)
Rick Shcaffer (37:47)
And those are real life stories. Yeah. And so, but, we have it within ourselves wisdom, I love this, quote, "Wisdom comes from living well together." So the the, the innate wisdom of the group didn't exist until we came together. Right? When you're an adjudicator, as Jake and I have referred to like hearing words, one person deciding what's best for everybody. Like, that's just inherently problematic. Right, but if we all come together to do this, right, we can come up with better outcomes.
Lauren Calhoun (38:19)
Right. I agree.
Abigail Arsenault (38:22)
Me too. I love it. I love it, it makes my brain like, the gears turn up there.
Rick Schaffer (38:29)
Well hopefully, this is just the beginning of that conversation. We can continue this somewhere else.
Abigail Arsenault (38:32)
Lauren Calhoun (38:32)
Agree. So kind of continuing on, and wrapping it up, but also just touching on what your job is. So just, what is your favorite part about working with the students? You know, I don't know, probably not everyone that comes in the office has a complaint. So just like, students from any background, just how is it? What's your favorite part working with them? And then also, you guys are some Spartans, So what's your favorite part about being a Spartan?
Jake Casper (39:02)
Yeah, I'll start. Jake here. And my favorite part is just working with a diverse group of students. Every student has a story. And every student has a different journey of how they got here. And, and how they decided to come to MSU and why they're here. And they all have different ideas, concepts, and I just love being a part of their journey and hearing their stories and, and just how we can support them what whatever it may be, and, and maybe they just wanted to stop by for the awesome treats that they, that we have in our office,--
Abigail Arsenault (39:37)
Jake Casper (39:38)
Just a bar Snickers, say hi, and that's totally fine, and we love that, too. Some students will bring their pets by, say hi to the animal. Oh, I love it. And so, it's just, it's never a dull day in the office, you know, just always good to, to see our students, see where they're learning and how they're learning about themselves, what they're learning in the classroom and outside the classroom where they're gonna go. I think that's just really exciting to be a part of that. So, and then your second question there about what's, what's my favorite part of of being a Spartan? It's just, I love the school spirit. I mean, this is something, I've worked at multiple institutions across the United States. And I've yet to be somewhere where you get 50,000 people that are just pumped about the Spartans, you know, and I just, it's and that's not just athletics, it's everything. And I think people just there's a pride that comes with being at MSU. And I think that's, that's pretty awesome.
Rick Schaffer (40:37)
So, I like, my favorite is one-on-one with students, right, because getting to know people like, that's my, that's what I, that's my favorite. So that's the easy part. I think. I like certainly like being with groups, and I'm a fairly social person. But, to me, having a real, big fan of Brene Brown, and so this idea of having like an authentic conversation with you and learning something about you that maybe other people don't know, or perhaps something that you don't feel comfortable talking about other people, I was always a huge compliment when somebody is able to share something with me that maybe they haven't shared with other people, that's a sign of trust, and it's a really honor a place of honor to be, so I really like those opportunities. You know, we're all getting older, I'm getting older, feels like faster, so being around younger people is a, is a nice thing, I think, generally speaking, and I learn a ton from students, I learn a ton from my, my son's we, we read books and talk about the books, in fact, I have a regular Sunday night conversation with my oldest son who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, we read a chapter and talk about the book, so those are the things that I find, I find learning, generally speaking, to be a fun thing. I'm going to take a bit of a risk here, but I grew up in Ann Arbor, there's another school there.
Lauren Calhoun (42:01)
Rick Schaffer (42:01)
I was born in—
Abigail Arsenault (42:03)
Jake Casper (42:03)
Rick Schaffer (42:05)
I was also partially raised in Petosky, Michigan and Bay Shore, Michigan, a town of about 100 people. And so, I have this sort of like, very rural small town but grew up went to Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. I came to Michigan State University, following a female friend who was three years older than me, just because I was trying to get-- no not--just because I was trying to get away from my parents, but not be alone. She was she was a friend. And I found what I loved about this place, was that people like Terry, even people who didn't know you, if you were wandering around this campus long before we had phones and somebody looked like you were lost, they came up and asked you can I help you? I think that Spartan spirit exists in lots of places that didn't exist necessarily in parts where I grew up. And I feel like that is still the case. Now I believe when you become a Spartan, you're always a Spartan, even if you don't graduate, I get a chance to speak to the magic students periodically over the years in a pre-matriculation program in the summer for first generation college students. And we say to them, "Welcome to the Spartan family, you are now in forever a member of the family," whether you come back here, whether you stay here, whether you finish or you're still a member of our family, and we care about what happens to you when you leave. And when you come back to see us, we're glad, right, because we're connected to you. And so, for me, the fact that I can go anywhere, one very quick story if I have time, I had a chance to go to Oakland, California, it might have been the hottest day on the planet, to do a Restorative Justice conference and I was wearing, unfortunately, pants and a jacket because I was thinking, I might just need it and it was easier than trying to tuck it away, it was the day that the Golden State Warriors had won the National Basketball Association Championship and Draymond Green plays on that team. And so there were lots of Spartan fans also on the streets of Oakland, California. It was about 98 degrees in the shade. And I was carrying luggage and couldn't get a ride to my hotel, so I had to walk about two miles, but I was wearing my Spartan jacket. And about every 100 yards. Somebody else, "Go green, Go white," right? So everywhere you go, there's going to be a Spartan. And that's, that makes the planet feel a little smaller. Pretty Cool.
Abigail Arsenault (44:38)
That is a cool story, because we, someone that we work with at the NSO office, I don't know where he was, it was Andre and he was like traveling the world. He was in an airport and he saw someone with like, an MSU hat or something they talked for, like
Lauren Calhoun (44:50)
Abigail Arsenault (44:50)
Yeah, they like—
Lauren Calhoun (44:43)
Just talked about their experiences, MSU, what they do, all of that.
Abigail Arsenault (44:46)
They were besties. And that's what I like, agree with like that sense of pride. Like, I like you kind of look at them. I know, you know.
Rick Schaffer (45:05)
A former colleague once shared the story that, while on an airplane ride that was delayed and they were going to get late to their gate. You've ever had one of those experiences?
Abigail Arsenault (45:12)
Rick Schaffer (45:12)
Oh my god, it's gonna be a nightmare, right? And so what happened is the pilot came on the air and said, ladies and gentlemen, I just want you to know that people in traffic control, one of them's a Spartan. They've cleared us to get into the jet stream, we're going to actually arrive earlier.
Abigail Arsenault (45:26)
Rick Schaffer (45:27)
How's that? Tell people where you're from.
Lauren Calhoun (45:31)
Thank you guys for joining us today. And thank you, everybody for listening and tuning in to this episode. We'll see you next time.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Spartan Orientation Station on Impact 89FM. Let us know what you think by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @msu_nso