EDITORIAL: Clarify rights for adjudication defendants
Former Director of Student Rights and Community Standards Dean Gendron departed from the University on Sept. 25, and in the four months since, the University has yet to fill the position. The lack of a Community Standards director is only one of the many current concerns with the University adjudication process, as highlighted in recent weeks. This board urges the University to appoint a replacement for Gendron as quickly as possible and to resolve the issues within the student Rights and Responsibilities handbook.
On Jan. 2, the Wall Street Journal published a feature detailing a fall 2013 Community Standards Report that was filed against Daniel Mael ’15 by Eli Philip ’15 and Mael’s follow-up meeting with Dean of Students Jamele Adams last October. Community Standards Reports are defined in the Rights and Responsibilities handbook as “an official report to the University’s Dean of Students Office about the behavior of a student or another person.” Mael was told in October according to the Journal that he had 48 hours to decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty, and was not allowed to keep a copy of the report as he made his decision.
According to Mael, Adams stated that it was routine procedure for defendants not to be given a copy of the Community Standards Report filed against them. Adams clarified in an email to the Justice that this is to protect personal information about other students that may appear on these forms. Regardless, this board finds it problematic that such clarification is even necessary and that the operating procedures of Community Standards Reports are not made clear in the Rights and Responsibilities handbook. The only references to the Community Standards Report explain how to file and begin the formal adjudication process after the report is filed but give no information about the rights of defendants to see the allegations lodged against them nor how long defendants have to decide how they plead. Similarly, the Rights and Responsibilities entry on the formal adjudication process only refers to the defendant when explaining that “the result of the adjudication will contain sanctions and/or protective measures if the accused is found responsible for one or more violations of ‘Rights and Responsibilities.’” If this procedure is in fact routine, it is extremely concerning; students should have the opportunity to review the charges lodged against them.
Moreover, the Rights and Responsibilities handbook is students’ only public source of information about these procedures, and if the rights of defendants are not clearly delineated, it is difficult for students to properly explain themselves against what may be false charges. We recommend that the handbook be immediately updated to include information relevant to defendants of the formal adjudication process, so as to properly represent the rights and responsibilities of all students.
Yet this board commends University President Frederick Lawrence for responding to the “one-sided diatribe” of the Journal. With many of the past public scandals the University has faced in recent years, the University had stayed quiet, allowing the media world to shape the conversation around the issue—a tactic this board has disagreed with repeatedly. Finally, the University and Lawrence responded to criticism. That Lawrence defended the University and his administration’s practices is admirable, and action which this board would like to see more of if future public scandals should arise.
That being said, the University still must reshape certain problematic policies outlines in the article. Lawrence’s letter to the Journal stated, “sunshine is the best disinfectant;” this board wholeheartedly agrees. We hope this recent publicity will cause the University to properly address the issues raised.