The Judicial Affairs Controversy

[![The OCS office](/content/images/OCS.png "OCS")](/content/images/OCS.png)
The new Office of Community Standards office at Tressider Union
What started last Spring with the release of a case study alleging violations of students’ rights has spiraled into an ongoing controversy pitting the Office of Community Standards against wary student groups, alumni and ASSU Senators.

In June 2011, three students were accused of cheating on a Human Biology final. The case ended with acquittal in November the following school year, but not before the three students and their representative went through what they allege to be “pervasive misconduct and wrongdoing that appears systemic to the Office of Judicial Affairs in the handling of these cases.”

The group, which included three students and Bob Ottilie ‘77, John Martin ‘80, and Graham Gilmer ‘05, penned a case study detailing their experience, including claims of violations of the Student Judicial Charter of 1997 by the Office of Judicial Affairs (OJA).

In June 2012, they shared the case study with Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman and Dean of Student Life Chris Griffith. Ottilie reports that they “seemed very appreciative and happy with the work we had generated in our case study” and that they shared it with the Board of Judicial Affairs (BJA), which oversees the judicial process for students.

The OJA had, in May, finished a self-initiated internal review which began in 2010 and sought to review the Honor Code, standard of proof, best practices and the Fundamental Standard. As a result of this study, the OJA changed their name to the Office of Community Standards (OCS) and appointed Koren Bakkegard as the new director.

The case study, meanwhile, remained privately in the hands of its authors and university administrators until last spring on May 13, when Marshall Watkins published the case study in the Stanford Daily. Chris Griffith and Koren Bakkegard affirmed in the article that most students were satisfied with the process and that “[the] process isn’t broken”.

Two days later, however, Chris Griffith published a response to the article dismissing the case study as “an anomalous example” and declaring it “seriously flawed and inaccurate in many [respects],” a sharp contrast to their initial response according to Ottilie.

The same day, Miles Bennett-Smith, the editor of the Stanford Daily, claimed the University sought to intimidate him by calling the story about the case study ‘libelous’.

The following week, the three students who were subjects and authors of the case study published a follow-up op-ed reiterating charter violations and recommending staff changes, specifically calling Griffith “a poor choice for the job.”

At the same time, and seemingly unrelatedly, the OCS approved bylaws to the student judicial charter. It was not until this school year, however, when ASSU senators brought attention to the bylaws, asserting that they had not been properly informed of their adoption. Both the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Senate Council drafted bills to overturn the bylaws.

Amidst the renewed controversy, Griffith claimed the OCS had sufficiently sought student input and was written in large part by students themselves.

On the same day as Griffith’s letter, the Student Justice Project, headed by Reid Spitz ‘14 and Bob Ottilie, a veteran of Stanford student affairs cases and author of the case study, held their first press conference. As part of the unveiling, they released signed testimonials from 23 people who had experienced the judicial system. All detailed how the OCS had at best been unfair and at worst violated the Student Judicial Charter.

The following week on October 22nd, the Undergraduate Senate failed to overturn the bylaws in a split 7-7 vote. The next day, however, the Graduate Student Council did overturn the bylaws after Spitz urged the council to reject the bylaws on the grounds that they were an unnecessary and illegitimate addition to the already sufficient charter.

Multiple storylines are still unresolved. The fate of the OCS’s bylaws is unclear. The Student Justice Project has voiced plans to publish case studies on more student judicial cases and to raise awareness amongst students about violations of their rights under the charter. Griffith, Bakkegard, and the entire OCS maintain that the ‘educational’ process is in the best interest of all students. Stay tuned to the Review as we investigate this issue.

Daniel O’Neel contributed to this article.

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