Georgetown students have a hair-trigger ability to raise a fuss over any injustice, be it on campus or in a far-away country. So why is it that the Residential Judicial Council, a student-run council that acts as a judicial arm of the Office of Student Conduct and Residence Life, can be placed on hiatus for an entire school year without so much as a whisper from the student body?

All activities of the RJC are suspended for the 2010-2011 academic year in order for a review of its structure and role to be conducted by the university, as well as its desperately low membership. It has been over four weeks since residents moved in, yet many students continue to labor under the delusion of “business as usual” when it comes to punitive action.

This runs counter to our mentality. How often did we students clamor to be placed on working groups for student space, the 10-year campus plan, or the president’s recent diversity initiative? How often have we complained about the lack of transparency or arbitrary nature of residential adjudications? To think that we would let this opportunity to work for advocacy on behalf of our fellow students is contradictory to what we stand for.

The RJC was created to resolve certain alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct. The boards were typically made up of three to five students and an administrative official that would hear cases and issue sanctions as necessary. Cases were typically of the minor sort, classified as Class A or B depending on the violation, but students could at least expect that someone of a similar age and living situation would hear them out.

What many students do not realize is that this peer judicial board provided one of the few avenues for students to contribute meaningfully to the judicial process. The RJC was never intended to merely issue punishments; it was created – in part by students – so that students could not only hold each other accountable, but also ensure that the resident’s perspective was not forgotten. Other than through the Honor Council and the Campus Living Advisory Board (which address separate issues), where else can students have a say in disciplinary affairs?

So what does this “restructuring” period mean for the residential adjudications? Hall directors have taken up the extra caseload in addition to the issues they already handle, so little has changed from the administration’s perspective except perhaps more work for the employees that deal with similar issues. Who really lose out, though, are those documented residents that can’t tell their side of the story before their peers. The truth is that undergraduates bring to bear a unique understanding of what is or is not tolerable in our living spaces, and that understanding is now absent.

I am well aware that if students are not interested in the RJC, there is little that anyone can do about it. It’s true the organization could have done much more to raise awareness about itself, its activities and its need for more members. Perhaps this interim period will be constructive and the RJC will return stronger than ever, with innovative plans for recruiting and reducing the number of violations. But I also worry that nothing will come of this restructuring – the RJC could easily become like so many other student organizations and disappear in the annals of good intentions.

Either we are committed to community ownership and a jury of our peers or we’re not. I think serious-minded people will recognize this loss of opportunity for what it is, and, in true bleed-Hoya-blue spirit, will do something about it. But consider the empathetic ear lost in the interim.

Shea Houlihan is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. He is vice president of student advocacy for the InterHall Council.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *