Judicial Affairs to Be Reviewed

As part of an ongoing effort to review all divisions of the Office of Student Affairs, Vice Provost of Student Affairs Greg Boardman recently announced a review of Judicial Affairs, the first review in thirteen years.  Boardman has already reviewed the Career Development Center and the Office of Accessible Education.

“I started reviewing every division within Student Affairs. It was time to review Judicial Affairs because it had not been done so in thirteen years,” said Boardman.  A document from the Office of Judicial Affairs says that, “when the Student Judicial Charter of 1997 was first created, it was anticipated that the Charter would be reviewed within 2-3 years.”

To help guide the review process, an outside consultant will be visiting Stanford in early 2011.  The Office of Judicial Affairs announced that the consultant, familiar with “the best practices in student conduct systems,” will report findings in the spring of 2011.

The Office of Judicial Affairs will also conduct a self-review, focusing on “administrative oversight” and the judicial process.  Additionally, Boardman’s office established a committee of faculty representing all seven schools, students, and staff to help with the review, called the Internal Review Panel.

Both last year’s chair of the Board of Judicial Affairs and the current chair of the Board had no involvement in choosing the students who serve on the committee. Brandon Jackson, chair of the Board of Judicial Affairs, commented, “Unfortunately, this is a concern I share as well…. I’m not really sure how panelists were selected.”

“[The Office of Student Affairs] selected students who have experience working with Judicial Affairs in the Judicial Panel Pool,” said Boardman.  Rather than using the NomCom process, Boardman’s office solicited students who worked directly with Judicial Affairs by serving as a panelist on cases.

Boardman also expressed that student input would be highly valued.  “Surveys will be sent out to all students, and we are hosting a town hall next quarter.”  Judicial Affairs also announced that focus groups will be an important aspect of gaining student input.

Judicial Affairs stated, “University input is crucial to the success of this endeavor, and we look forward to engaging the community in dialogue about the Judicial Affairs Review.”

The review will be looking at the strengths of the Judicial Affairs process and also looking at the strengths of other Judicial Affairs processes across the nation.

Jackson considers the “number one problem” to be the length of a trial. Boardman agreed, saying, “The process is too long.”

“One of the biggest complaints in the recent past is the length of time it takes to go through the process,” said Nathan Chambers, last year’s chair of the Board of Judicial Affairs.  “The fact that the length of time is the biggest complaint and not that the outcome was unfair speaks well for the process,” added Chambers.

Jackson suggested that because “the office is understaffed…and there are basically only three people that manage things in it,” the length of trials is often longer than necessary.

Last year, the Board on Judicial Affairs implemented a new pilot program that allows students to plead guilty, without a formal trial.  The students on the Board hoped that this program would help speed cases and provide sentences faster to those not contesting their charges.

Boardman also expressed concern over the issue of burden of proof in the Stanford Judicial Affairs charter. “Stanford’s burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, and the majority of schools in the country hold the burden of proof to a less strict standard.”

The review will also look at the impact of the standard sanction and whether it deserves to be reevaluated. The standard sanction is meant as a uniform punishment for certain violations, and it proscribes a one-quarter suspension and forty hours of community service.

Jackson stated, “From my experiences, there are many cases where the panel will decide to deviate from the standard sanction…and I think it’s worth looking at if the standard sanction is too harsh.”

Chambers also noted the standard sanction as an issue.  “If you plagiarize a paragraph or if you plagiarize the entire paper, the penalty is the same.  If you plagiarize a sentence, should you be suspended for an entire quarter?  Those questions haven’t been asked in a very long time.”

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