It can be tough to keep up with politics, between the national stage, the local stage, the crazy beauty pageant that is 2016, and the USenate. Fortunately, CCSC bureau chief, and Obama’s most secret staffer (because why not?), Joseph Milholland has at least the last covered, with notes and commentary from the latest meeting.
At the February 6 University Senate plenary, senator Angela Nelson spoke about a future timeline for the changes to Columbia’s rules of conduct and briefly indicated what the committee was looking at for changes to the disciplinary procedure. “Based on feedback that we’ve received at the townhalls, the committee is discussing different options, one of which might be an internal panel or a system where all the charges would be heard,” said Nelson.
For most of the address, senator Nelson, along with Columbia College senator Jared Odessky, spoke about how the rules of conduct work now and gave some updates on what it will be doing in the future. The committee, according to Odessky, is “splitting into three working groups” to discuss the three sections of the rules: violations, event management, and disciplinary procedure. The committee’s planned timeline is to have a draft of proposed changes for public view by March 14, a town hall on March 27, a discussion about the rules in a senate plenary April 2, and a plenary vote on May 1.
Odessky admitted this is a “short timeline by senate standards,” but justified the timeline because the university has been discussing this for a long time and new rules are needed by the next school year.
The two senators also received some questions from the senate about the rules of conduct. Several questions dealt with how the rules of conduct disciplinary procedure intersected with the criminal justice system. “Anything that is said inside this university can be used in a criminal procedure,” Prezbo said about cases where both processes occur. He said he wasn’t sure whether private conversations between the lawyer or legal advisor and a client in a university process could be used in a court, but he was sure everything else could. This standard includes both rules violations and sexual assault investigations. Prezbo also noted that the advisors for sexual assault investigations have been law student volunteers.
One senator asked if the rules of conduct committee had heard a rational for a single internal process during the town halls. Odessky responded that he had heard mostly “concern about moving away from the external process” during the town halls. Nelson said that a current concern of hers with the disciplinary process is that students from different schools in the same protest can be judged under the different processes from their schools. Nelson admitted this concern of hers can apply to both the internal and external processes, and she said she would prefer one process for all students.
Columbia College university senator Ramis Wadwood asked what a single internal process might look like. Nelson said the university could use an existing panel appointed by executive committee members, and appeals would go to the judicial board that already hears appeals in serious violation cases. Wadwood asked then about what student representation there would be in the process. Nelson said that there are students on the judicial board for appeals, and Prezbo assured Wadwood there would be student voices heard in future discussions on this issue.
There was also a question about the standards of evidence used in the disciplinary procedure. “To make a lot of theses standards – evidentiary and so forth – consistent with the rules we’ve gone through on sexual assault […] we use preponderance,” Nelson said of the standards in disciplinary procedures. To convict someone on the standard of preponderance of evidence, there needs to be more evidence that not that they are guilty.
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