Staff Editorial: Judicial changes not needed

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August 31, 2007

3:08 PM

An Aug. 23 e-mail from Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler confirmed that the College is still considering remodeling the selection process of Judicial Council members. The new proposals — recommended last spring by representatives of the Student Assembly as part of the College’s annual efforts to modify and update the Student Handbook — advocated a campus-wide vote, similar to the electoral process practiced by the school’s Honor Council, to ultimately decide the members of the Judicial Council. We applaud the Student Assembly’s efforts to make constructive changes on campus, but in this case, there is little to be fixed.

p. The current Judicial Council selection consists of an arduous application and interview process — one that is largely carried out behind closed doors — which ensures that the members selected are of the highest integrity and character, and also prevents selected members from holding allegiances to specific students.
The current Judicial Council represents the interests of all parties. Students are offered the option of having their case reviewed by their peers, and these peers are themselves bound to the ideals, laws and regulations of the College. Under the current system, the integrity of the College is never compromised.

p. A campus-wide vote has the potential to become a College-wide popularity contest, which, in turn, could undermine the entire judicial system. While enhanced student involvement in dictating campus policy is generally a good thing, the proposed selection process, as the Dean of Students Office correctly pointed out in its response to the suggested changes, has the potential to produce a Judicial Council with a very narrow range of views. This is largely because voters do not necessarily select candidates that will combine to form a well-balanced group that is representative of the entire student body.

p. Perhaps the biggest problem with the proposed changes relates to the responsibilities and mandate of the new panel. The Judicial Council deals with cases of extreme severity and, in many instances, breaches of campus policy that can result in suspension or expulsion. Often, the entire future of a student’s academic career, if not his or her life, is in the hands of these members, and it is of the utmost importance that this panel is not chosen by an election decided primarily by reputations, pictures and generic blurbs on SIN. There are other problems with this system. Simply omitting a picture from the online election page — as suggested by the Student Assembly to protect the candidates — is not enough.

p. In an age of Facebook and other social networking tools, the Judicial Council members could potentially be subjected to enhanced scrutiny or harassment, which would surely be detrimental to their effectiveness and objectivity in handling cases.
Sadler mentioned in this same message that he believes the debate requires an extra semester of working with current Judicial Council members to decide if the process should be altered. With such an important change on the agenda, the additional time is warranted, but changes to the current selection system are not. In order to maintain the integrity, effectiveness and reputation of the Judicial Council, it is imperative that the application and selection processes are not changed.

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