External Review Sparks Dialogue
Published: Friday, January 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2013 02:01
The university’s external review of conduct policies and practices, which was completed in December, focused on reducing bureaucracy, simplifying the Code of Student Conduct and improving communication among students, faculty and staff.
Robert Kelly, vice president for student development at Loyola University Chicago, and Stephen Bryan, associate dean of students and director of student conduct at Duke University, conducted the review.
Kelly and Bryan evaluated Georgetown’s conduct policies, taking into consideration its space and staff limitations as well as its Jesuit mission. Before reviewing the code, Kelly and Bryan heard testimonials from students chosen by the Georgetown University Student Association.
“I feel like they listened to the testimonials and that was reflected in the final report,” GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) said.
Recommendations for reducing bureaucracy included centralizing functions of the disciplinary system, which currently includes the Honor Council, Residential Judicial Council, Disciplinary Review Committee and Weekend Review Council, among other bodies. The results of the review suggested that this could reduce the time it takes to resolve disciplinary matters and increase transparency in the disciplinary process.
Kelly and Bryan highlighted the role of the Student Advocacy Office in disciplinary procedures and recommended that their student advocates work directly with the Office of Student Conduct.
“We didn’t even exist a year ago, so the fact that we’re in this document is great for our legitimacy,” SAO advocate Constantine Petallides (SFS ’13) said. “We’re working to prove we’re not just some rabble-rousers, and [we’re] finding ways to be institutionalized. This is part of the process.”
The reviewers also suggested simplifying policy definitions in the Code of Student Conduct and creating a mediation system to help resolve disciplinary cases.
To improve communication among students, faculty and staff, Kelly and Bryan suggested that the university change the language used in parts of the Code of Student Conduct, improve its layout and accessibility online, provide yearly updates of policy changes to students and introduce the policy to freshmen during New Student Orientation.
Kohnert-Yount agreed that students need to be made more aware of the role of the Office of Student Conduct and the complexities of the code.
“Until you interact with the code, whether as a victim or violator, most people don’t know the office exists,” she said. “We’re never educated until we have to learn.”
NSO Coordinator Dan Silkman (COL ’15) said that NSO could play an important role in informing new students about the code, both by educating Orientation Advisors about the code and introducing it to new students in the discussions that surround the Pluralism in Action program. According to Silkman, any changes to NSO programming would be finalized in June.
Kelly and Bryan also suggested changes to the code itself that would make it clearer to students.
Their suggestions included eliminating bureaucratic names for forms and documents and simplifying guidelines for board hearings. The reviewers also recommended eliminating the Category A, B and C violation system in favor of a system with standalone policies for different violations.
Georgetown currently keeps disciplinary records for only one day after a student graduates, and the reviewers suggested keeping online records for a longer period of time.
Kelly and Bryan also suggested elaborating on Georgetown’s speech and expression policy and providing examples of what the university would consider a violation of the policy.
Some students had hoped that the university’s external review would encourage revision — not just clarification — of the free speech policy, which currently restricts free speech outside of the designated zone in Red Square.
“When I heard free speech was in [the review,] I was excited, and then I read it and I was disappointed because it didn’t really say anything,” said Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), who speaker of the GUSA senate and a member of the GUSA Free Speech Board.
The final recommendation was to increase support for alleged assault victims, which Kohnert-Yount considered a significant step, and cited a personal experience with assault.
“My experience was tough at best and very traumatic. I think a key recommendation was providing more support to alleged victims and possibly [extending this to] alleged violators,” she said. “They very much listened to the perspective of students and made clear recommendations to improve the experience of students going through the process.”
According to Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, the Office of Student Conduct will work with the Disciplinary Review Committee to discuss these recommendations this semester and will implement any changes in the fall.