Last night at El Centro Chicano, the Office of Judicial Affairs and the ASSU co-hosted a forum to garner student opinions and perspectives on the University judicial process. The event brought together staff from the Office of Judicial Affairs, ASSU Senators, members of the Executive Cabinet, students with a personal connection to the judicial process and other interested parties.
A review of Stanford’s Judicial Charter of 1997 has been “long overdue,” said ASSU President Angelina Cardona ’11. Thirteen years after the creation of the Judicial Charter, the Internal Review Panel is currently working on an extensive evaluation of the procedures and functions that are put into action when a student is accused of violating the Fundamental Standard, the Honor Code or any other student conduct policy. The panel consists of faculty, staff and four students including Cardona.
Student input plays a central role in this overhaul of Judicial Affairs, said Chris Griffith, associate vice provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Life.
“Your voice is critical to the process,” Griffith said, addressing the audience.
Last night’s forum featured presentations from all four subcommittees of the Internal Review Panel: the Honor Code, the Standard of Proof, Best Practices and the Fundamental Standard. The second half of the forum gave students the opportunity to express their own opinions in small groups led by members of each of the four subcommittees.
“One of the biggest concerns is just the speed of the [judicial] process,” said ASSU Senator Stewart Macgregor Dennis ’13.
According to Griffith, the process usually takes around five months because judicial panels are not held during the first week of the quarter, dead week or finals week. Cases initiated spring quarter are often not resolved until fall quarter of the following academic year.
Morris Graves, associate dean of Student Life, argued that, if the judicial process takes longer than three weeks, students do not learn from the judicial process and focus instead on their frustration with bureaucratic red tape. A top priority is to come up with new ways to shorten the process.
ASSU Senator Juany Torres ’13 said “it’s up to the student to speak up” in instances of cheating and plagiarism. But she quickly added that “it’s often difficult for them to do that.”
In fact, faculty members tend to report far more cases of cheating or plagiarism than do students. The student-led Educational Outreach Committee hopes to address this issue by working to better educate the student body about the Honor Code via t-shirt campaigns.
According to Theo Gibbs ’11, another important issue is the unwillingness of victims of sexual harassment and assault to come forward in the judicial process. Victims are less likely to come forward because University standards in this area are too stringent.
“There’s a very strong argument for lowering standard of proof from ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ to ‘clear and convincing’ or ‘preponderance of evidence’ in terms of cases of sexual assault or harassment,” Gibbs said.
Stanford is only one of four schools with this particular standard; most schools use more relaxed standards like “preponderance of evidence” and “clear and convincing evidence.”
Last night’s event was well received by members of the audience.
“I’m glad we did this,” said Student Life Assistant Dean Jamie Hogan, who is chairing the review process. “The conversations I heard were all thought-provoking.”
Cardona pointed out that while the student input forum was an affective avenue for some students to express their opinions, there are other options available for those who wish to remain anonymous.
The Internal Review Panel welcomes phone calls, e-mails and letters from concerned students. These will all play an important part in the panel’s final recommendations to President John Hennessy and Vice Provost Greg Boardman at the end of the year.