By Tracy Zupancis Hoya Staff Writer

Although the code of conduct is reviewed on a yearly basis, instances of intolerance on campus and the emergence of the Georgetown Unity Coalition have led to a greater focus on the code this year.

“Every year the code of conduct is examined and the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Residence Life and the Discipline Review Committee who all make evaluations,” Director of Student Conduct Judy Johnson said. According to Johnson, the compiled suggestions and notes from all the groups made throughout the academic year are reviewed at the end of the year and during the summer.

Students find representation on the Discipline Review Committee, also composed of faculty members and the associate dean of students.

With the advent of the Unity Coalition, there has been an increased focus on disciplinary actions taken against students who commit hate crimes. Johnson said the difference this makes to the normal process of reviewing the code is that “now there is a group to look at these things with a certain issue in mind.”

One Unity Coalition leader, Aaron Polkey (COL ’02), said the new group has been “pleased with the way the university has received our suggestions and we’re confident that concrete results will have been achieved before the close of the year.”

Johnson said that the Sexual Assault Working Group has also been looking at hate incident issues in their area of focus.

Johnson believes that weekly meetings between her office and members of the Unity Coalition have been progressing well, saying, “We are learning that the code may not need a major overhaul, that we have a good foundation, but we need publicity for making it clear that serious sanctions can apply for bias-related incidents. In addition, perhaps some language retooling is in order.”

Polkey echoed Johnson’s sentiment, saying, “We are beginning to learn that we don’t need to go as far as defining each and every act in the code.” She added, “At this point our basic request is that the code address that hate crimes make simple acts of vandalism much worse. We need to make sure that the code is fair and hope that everyone is part of the discussion.”

The rules falling under the heading of harassment in the code of conduct are applicable to hate- or bias-related issues, but there also remains room for more severe sanctions to be given if hate or bias is involved.

Johnson said the conclusion reached thus far is that making students aware of the severe sanctions possible for bias-related incidents is imperative. Some possible means for getting such facts out, she believes, include “making students aware of the school’s position the moment they step on campus” through discussing these rules in the initial dorm meetings and reiteration of the ethos statement throughout the early part of each student’s career and beyond.

Polkey said, “It’s very important to let all students know that such crimes are punishable, but even after that, some moderate retooling of the code is needed to make sure that everything is covered. We don’t want to get radical, but we also don’t want to be too moderate.”

“The Unity Coalition has felt that the language of the code is good, but that there is a need to show people that they can be held accountable under D.C. law for acts of intolerance,” Johnson said.

“We want the next entering class to be aware of the rules and laws so that they know these crimes are especially unacceptable,” Polkey added.

The ethos statement emphasizes community and consists of five main elements: honesty, respect, discourse, mutual care and safety. ost applicable to combating bias-related incidents is the policy concerning respect, which reads that students are expected to harbor “a commitment to treat others in a respectful manner, regardless of differences such as race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.”

The groups have not yet discussed whether hate crimes should be termed a category B or a category C offence, which proved to be a strong point of contention during the town hall meeting held Feb. 8.

The rules concerning alcohol consumption are facing scrutiny following the death of David Shick, though Johnson emphasized that her office had been examining alcohol issues throughout the year.

There has been an active discussion concerning how to make the rules on alcohol possession and consumption clearer, including the role that alcohol plays in altercations. According to Johnson, aggravating as well as mitigating circumstances are weighed when considering altercations. Johnson said that it is important students understand alcohol is considered an aggravating rather than a mitigating circumstance when any rule has been violated.

Related Links

 Current Student Code of Conduct

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