September 14, 2007
As the staff editorial in the Aug. 31 issue of The Flat Hat made clear, the Judicial Council selection process is not the primary obstacle to create a fair judicial system at the College. The real barrier lies in the fact that hundreds of students each year — already overburdened with heavy course loads and extracurricular responsibilities — are hurried through a complicated process that elevates expediency over the care for students’ rights.
p. At over 9,000 words long, the College’s judicial code is only fully understood by a small number of students on campus, most of them members of the Judicial Council itself. All students, whether they are alleged violators of College policy, alleged victims or even witnesses to an alleged violation, must have access to the best advice and assistance they can possibly get.
p. To help facilitate that process, the Student Assembly has submitted a policy proposal to Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler that advocates a minor change to the code’s “Advice and Assistance of Counsel” section with big implications for student rights and representation. The proposal has been unanimously endorsed by the SA senate and signed by a variety of elected student leaders, including SA President Zach Pilchen ’09, Vice President Valerie Hopkins ’09, Graduate Council President Lindsey Kraatz and the presidents of every graduate school at the College.
p. The student handbook currently allows a restricted pool of representation for students facing judicial charges. Only students within the same “academic unit” as those accused may sit with the charged party and advise them during the hearing. Although all students at the College are governed by a unified judicial code, only undergraduates may represent undergraduates, only law students may represent law students and only marine science students may represent marine science students. For those students with friends who have Judicial Council experience or are knowledgeable about the judicial code, finding strong student representation does not present much of a problem. The other 99 percent of us are left ill-equipped to face a panel of highly trained administrators and students as we ricochet through the complicated processes and procedures.
p. By removing the academic unit caveat from the judicial code, the nearly 700 students (primarily undergrads) who are thrust through the judicial system each year could request advice and assistance on judicial matters from a much wider group of students, such as those at the law school involved in student legal services. In addition, it would have the effect of creating a truly integrated judicial code, not only with regard to procedures and punishment, but by recognizing the students at the College as part of a single community.
p. In pursuing this, the SA recognizes that the College’s judicial system is not a courtroom. While the ramifications of a judicial hearing may have lasting effects on a student’s academic career, such effects are incomparable to the loss of life or liberty that can come with a guilty verdict in a court of law. Even so, students should have access to the best impartial advice and assistance they can get within the framework of the College community. Sadler and all other relevant players in the administration should be swift in reviewing this proposal and recommending a mid-year change to College President Gene Nichol.
p. __Scott Morris, the deputy chief of staff of the Student Assembly, is a sophomore at the College.__