The Graduate Student Council (GSC) returned to the subject of the Alternative Review Process (ARP) in its final meeting Wednesday evening, ultimately echoing the 13th Undergraduate Senate’s decision to defer further discussion and voting on the issue until new representatives take office next week.
“We don’t think that we should be voting on how the ARP should be written [yet],” said Justin Brown, current GSC secretary and last year’s GSC co-chair. “We should be voting on how we need to talk about this more.”
The ARP is a new judicial procedure for cases involving sexual assault, sexual harassment or relationship violence. Certain provisions of the procedure — such as a lower standard of proof, a simple majority requirement for convictions and a diminished ability to cross-examine witnesses — have come under criticism during recent GSC and Senate meetings.
One area of concern, the removal of a clause assuming a defendant’s innocence, has since been restored to its original wording.
The GSC approved by a roll-call vote a motion by Sjoerd de Ridder, a GSC at-large representative, to table the ARP bill and call for additional review by the Board of Judicial Affairs (BJA) of the issues within the debate. Six GSC representatives voted in favor of the motion, while one voted against and one abstained.
While the ARP has been under discussion in the GSC since an April 18 meeting, Brown and de Ridder denied any substantive internal disagreement on the ARP’s provisions within the GSC, and attributed the prolonged deliberation instead to the importance of the subject under discussion.
“Tonight wasn’t really a discussion of what ARP should be,” Brown said.
He added that GSC representatives remain concerned that the BJA, along with the GSC and the Undergraduate Senate, has yet to fully address all potential cases in which the ARP might be applied.
“Agreeing with the ARP as is basically states it is perfect,” de Ridder wrote in an email to the GSC list in late April. “Amending it, on the fly, when approving it, is non-constructive, because many bodies need to agree on the ARP. Providing a set of opinions is the responsible thing to do, as it would give the BJA resources and incentives to carefully review the document.”
In discussing the GSC’s approach to the issue, de Ridder expressed concern over a lack of awareness of the ARP’s provisions, a sentiment shared for the most part by Brown.
“Getting graduate students’ feedback on this is like pulling teeth,” Brown said. “The vast majority of graduate students don’t even know that this is up for debate. This is not something that is on their radar..and] it really should be.”
Brown argued that a lack of communication between graduate students and University administrators — along with a perception among graduate students that it is unlikely they will be exposed to University disciplinary proceedings — has led to an alarming gap in awareness.
“That’s really on the administration to make sure that they can — in an effective way — get that information out to the students,” Brown said. “There appears to be a disconnect between students and the administration about what the ARP means, and what the consequences are.”
De Ridder also expressed concern over a lack of awareness of the issue’s nuances — even among GSC representatives, a notion that Brown disputed. De Ridder said this would make a vote on the ARP in the upcoming weeks premature.
“I have my own opinions, and I’m happy to share them, but I’m concerned that trying to convince them [other GSC members] of my standpoint may not be appropriate,” de Ridder said.
As new GSC representatives assume office next week, both de Ridder and Brown said they do not think there should be any kind of approaching deadline for approving the ARP, arguing that new representatives should have the opportunity to educate themselves on the issues before voting.
De Ridder asserted that it would not be excessive to delay voting on the ARP until next fall, given the subsequent need for University ratification.
“I will encourage the Board of Judicial Affairs and the ASSU Executive to come up with a new time frame [for the discussion of the ARP],” de Ridder said. “I hope that they take their time to additionally review the document to ensure that there is no delay when the Faculty Senate takes this up in the fall.”