Dean of Student Life Chris Griffith was a strange choice to provide the University’s response to our case study exposing extensive violations of Stanford’s Judicial Charter by the Office of Judicial Affairs (OJA). Griffith had responsibility for OJA at the time of the study, and therefore seems unlikely to clean house at the department.
The Judicial Charter was adopted by students in 1997. Griffith and others have candidly acknowledged what appear to us to be fundamental philosophical disagreements with several of the Charter’s guaranteed rights. This culture, if not eradicated, will likely lead to ongoing violations of the Charter.
Our first letter from OJA said we could not contact any witnesses, although the Charter guarantees that right. We were fortunate to have alumni representatives advise us; we ignored OJA and produced 15 corroborating witnesses. Had we believed OJA, we would have lost our case and likely been suspended for a quarter.
Next, OJA hired a statistical expert. When the analysis was corroborative of our innocence, OJA dismissed the expert and refused to identify the statistician so we could call the expert as our witness. OJA appeared to be working for our conviction.
The Judicial Charter mandates that if a charging student seeks anonymity, the case must be withdrawn. In our case, the student sought anonymity, but OJA pursued the case anyway, a gross violation of the Charter. At our hearing, OJA allowed the instructor to testify to what the never-identified student had said, with no opportunity for us to cross-examine, another right mandated by the Charter and violated by OJA.
OJA did everything it could to exclude our 12 non-party witnesses from testifying at the hearing, then attempted to cut off direct questioning of witnesses who did. OJA allowed into evidence matters ruled irrelevant in pre-hearing proceedings. When we objected, the OJA employee said Stanford doesn’t allow objections at its judicial hearings.
The course coordinator asked our first student witness if she would authorize a review of all of the witness’ exam booklets from the class, which served no purpose other than to intimidate the student witness. Although witnesses are protected from intimidation by the Charter, OJA employees sat by silently.
The day after the hearing we asked the OJA to preserve the record so we could share our experiences with other students. OJA told us the file had already been physically “shredded,” notwithstanding the Charter’s specific guarantee that it be maintained for one full year.
Now, with our Case Study providing witness to the inner workings of her department, Dean Griffith has attempted to figuratively shred our case by proclaiming our meticulously documented and thoroughly vetted Case Study “seriously flawed and inaccurate” in many respects. Yet, in 18 months, several dozen University officials have received the Study and not one, including Griffith in a half dozen conversations with our group, has questioned a single sentence. Alternatively, and inconsistently, she calls our experience “an outlier.”
Was OJA’s conduct an “outlier”? Hardly. Almost every violation of our rights reflected OJA policies, not unique individual evidentiary rulings. If there was any doubt that OJA could eviscerate our Judicial Charter, consider Griffith’s surprisingly candid quote in The Daily: “[Griffith] said that by omitting the previously supplied warning to student respondents to not contact witnesses, student respondents might be more likely to do so.” [Emphasis added.]
These people appear to have fundamental philosophical objections to portions of our student-drafted Judicial Charter. Griffith’s quote, her effort to discredit us and the study itself, all suggest a culture that permeates OJA.
Griffith claims the case study “poorly serves” the discussion. In fact, our study started the discussion. It blows the whistle on the hijacking of our Judicial Charter by OJA. Griffith prefers an “educational” process, but the Charter’s provisions are all that matter. Students adopted a Judicial Charter, not an Educational Charter.
Does enforcement of the Charter matter? We believe scores of students may have been convicted in cases where the Charter was violated. Wrongful convictions typically result in one-quarter suspensions and Stanford maintains a permanent record, which graduate schools and employers can see.
More significantly, systemic and condoned Charter violations, in the very office tasked with maintaining the University’s academic integrity, will threaten the University’s reputation and erode its core values. This issue affects us all.
Stanford must assign a respected, credible third party to clean house and remove from OJA anyone who philosophically objects to the rights guaranteed by our Judicial Charter. Chris Griffith, who oversaw OJA as that culture appears to have flourished, is, in our view, a poor choice for the job.
Submitted by the three student authors (Students L, C, and R) of the 2012 Judicial Affairs Case Study