I’m sure all of Georgetown’s pious Irish Catholics spent yesterday in solemn contemplation during the holy feast day of St. Patrick. But on the off chance that you spent the day being a little less Catholic — and perhaps a little more Irish — I sincerely hope you aren’t facing any disciplinary charges as a result of your frivolity.

If you are, you might as well file your appeal with the good Saint because unfortunately Georgetown’s students still don’t have a viable judicial alternative to the current system of administrator action and the endless paperwork it entails. This needs to change, and the creation of a strong student court would be a solid step in the right direction.

As it stands, the only student court on campus is the Residential Judicial Council. The RJC was created in order to give students a say in how the Georgetown community deals with violations of the Student Code of Conduct. The council has the power to arbitrate almost all Class A and some Class B charges in lieu of administrator action. But since its inception, the RJC has been crippled by bureaucratic red tape.

The council’s limitations abound: only cases that involve students living in on-campus housing can be heard, students cannot request a hearing but must be selected by the council for adjudication and a lack of volunteer council members has greatly diminished the amount of cases that can be heard in a given semester to a small fraction of overall violations. Worst of all, this year the RJC has been best known for being on hiatus, hardly the mark of a group that strives to be a guardian of student justice on campus.

It should be pointed out that this unfavorable situation is not the fault of the council’s current leadership. The students on the council have earnestly worked, often without recognition, to reform what little they can within the RJC. Their latest reforms include a worthwhile effort to elect members, rather than have them appointed by Resident Life. This is a smart step towards improving the credibility of a council that many view as ineffective or sycophantic. Yet electoral reform does not create organizational evolution. Sadly, the biggest problems facing the current student court system are beyond the scope of internal RJC reform.

If the school wants to give more than lip service to the idea of a student-led judiciary, it must reform the Student Code of Conduct in a worthwhile manner. Court jurisdiction should be granted to all students, not just on-campus residents. Furthermore, any student facing a Class A violation charge should have the choice of seeking a hearing in front of a council of their peers. The idea that “only complex cases” should be heard by the court is arbitrary at best and prejudicial at worst; I doubt that many students would not choose to contest a charge if given an equitable forum to do so.

The establishment of a trustworthy student court would also allow for a more fair and transparent presentation of evidence and witnesses not currently available to students arbitrating a charge with an all-powerful administrator. Considering Georgetown’s liberal evidentiary standards and woeful appeals process, such debates often degrade into a ‘he said, she said’ line of argumentation that students rarely win. Given the consequences of accruing violations, be it a party ban or the inability to study abroad, these kinds of arguments over petty violations cannot continue to be tolerated.

In the end, both students and administrators have a stake in emboldening a student court system. A student court system would reduce useless expenses and paperwork for the many embattled bureaucrats up in the Office of Student Conduct, something every administrator would likely appreciate. Most importantly, the process of punishing and rehabilitating violators would become a communal effort, rather than the current administrators versus students mentality that persists. An open court would foster the idea that taking care of our university is a process that the whole community has a stake in.

The Student Code of Conduct explicitly states, “The mere observance of rules without the cooperation and personal appropriation of the values they protect falls short of what Georgetown hopes for everyone who is part of the campus community.” There is no better way to show that students are incorporating the values at the foundation of the judicial system than by allowing them full access and equal opportunity to the very system that governs them.

Real reform will require a concerted effort on the part of both students and administrators. But if Georgetown truly wants to create a democratic and equitable community, it must create a judicial system that is of the people, by the people and for the people. No longer should students be forced to accept a system designed only to rule over the people.

James Butler is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at jbutler@thehoya.com. THE STREET LAWYER appears every other Friday.

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