SAC passes code of conduct
Unanimous vote advances code to next phase
The Student Affairs Committee voted to pass the revised Student Code of Conduct Thursday afternoon.
The proposed code lowers the standard of evidence from clear and convincing to preponderance of evidence, edited the appeals process and introduced student mediation.
Preponderance of Evidence
The preponderance standard dictates that an accused student “more likely than not” committed an offense, or that there is a 51 percent chance that the student committed an offense.
George Wendt, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, said that though he does not agree with the change in the level of evidence, he was willing to endorse the code. He is not a voting member of the Student Affairs Committee.
“I think it’s the wrong standard,” Wendt said. “We’re talking about some very serious punishments. They can take away your degree after you’ve graduated, and in order to do that, they have to say they they’re 51 percent sure you did something wrong. That’s an enormous responsibility on their part, and so I don’t think it’s the right standard. I just think it’s the best we can do right now.”
Wendt said he will continue to check up on the student conduct process to ensure that it remains fair.
“I will tell the person who takes over my position next year that this is the first thing to check every single week: have they lived to up this agreement or have they not?” Wendt said. “And if they don’t, I can almost guarantee that my successor will call them out on this, and they will say this is unacceptable.”
Associated Student Body President Tim Clinton, who is also not a voting member on the SAC, said that he did not endorse the code because he disagreed with lowering the standard level of evidence. He is also not a voting member.
“If Student Conduct Board and a lot more levels of protection were given for the accused, I’d be OK with preponderance, but as it stands right now, I’m not,” Clinton said. “I think most other people are more trusting of the administration, and it’s not that I’m not, but you never know who’s going to be in those positions down the road, and it opens them up to really abuse a lot of stuff.”
The revised code introduces mediation for students accused of non-alcohol, non-drug and first-time alcohol offenses. Students and administrators will go over the evidence with the accused and discuss the offense and the punishment. They also call for lighter penalties.
“We have all of these Student Conduct Board members who all of a sudden were done, and this mediation allows them an opportunity to sit down and help out students who are in need or who have been accused, and say: This is the evidence against you, this is what you’re looking at, and maybe we can work out a way to create a dialogue on what’s going on,” Clinton said.
Director of Student Conduct Kristen Kawczynski said that she hopes student organizations such as Undergraduate Student Government will help provide funds to create a new administrative position for mediation. She said she does not know, however, how Tulane’s hiring freeze will affect the new position.
“We’d like to hire, but nobody’s been able to tell me that I can because we need support from USG or other student bodies to put up money if they want this to be successful,” Kawczynski said. “We also continue to train officers, and like I have always said, we will continue to recruit conduct officers. Whether we had made any changes or not, I was going to recruit more conduct officers.”
USG wrote a decree stating it would support a new position to accommodate the addition of mediation.
“They’re the ones that [said], ‘We want this mediation team,’ and we’re saying to them, ‘Fine, we’ll do this mediation team, but you need to also help us with this by giving us support not only on paper, but also with funding some sort of position,’” Kawczynski said.
The Student Affairs Committee agreed to change the appeals process to allow students more leeway. Though the new code lists the same four criteria for an appeal as the old code, the proposed code allows students to petition to appeal for any reason.
“I think there was a general consensus from the students that they felt that their rights wouldn’t be protected by preponderance, which wasn’t the case, but that’s what they were feeling,” Kawczynski said. “So we tweaked some things. We enhanced the mediation part that was in there, and they tweaked the appeals part so that the students felt more comfortable that they had other means in case they felt a decision was made that wasn’t supportive.”
Clinton said the initial code that the administration presented was contradictory, but that he approves of the changes overall.
“The appeals process needed to be redone, and I think we’ve beefed it up enough to get some more levels of protection there,” Clinton said.
The new code also allows students who do not want to be tried in a group trial to appeal to the provost and petition for an individual trial.
“I’m still uncomfortable with that,” Wendt said. “I think it still should be more. I think you should have the right to a separate hearing if you so choose, but, once again, they have the power.”