Student-run judiciary in the works

Treasurer Mike Woodrum voiced questions about the implementation of a student-led judiciary committe, including subjects like compensation for committee members. Photo by Anthony Garnier.

On Thursday, March 23, the University of Dallas Student Government heard a proposal to create a student-led committee, which would pass judgment on their peers for offenses including open-house hours violations, underage drinking, intoxication violations and alcohol possession.

This committee is proposed to be a separate branch of Student Government (SG) that will conduct hearings and determine sentences for offenses committed by students that do not fall under Title IX.

The proposal, presented by Dr. John Plotts and Dr. Sheryl Dellinger, was put together by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) with the goal of involving students more in the disciplinary process.

“The goal will be to hear conduct cases and help students understand the harm that their actions have caused themselves, their community and the university,” Dellinger said via email.

The proposal is only a draft at this stage. Over the next few weeks, SG will determine if and how the committee will be established.

In the draft, the proposed branch would consist of two committees of five students each, both with a chair.

Students on the committees would be chosen by Student Government in consultation with the OSA.

The OSA would coordinate hearings and give students the opportunity to review materials, including their conduct report, before the hearing.

An OSA staff member would be present during the hearing as a neutral party to answer procedural questions.

Students would also be allowed to bring in witnesses approved by the committee.

Committee meetings would be closed, but audio recordings of the hearings would be kept in the student’s conduct file.

The committee must then determine within 14 days whether a violation occurred and, if necessary, determine an appropriate sanction.

The proposal also contains an appeals process wherein students can bring their case to the OSA in the events of suspension or expulsion.

Lesser offenses would be appealed through either the SCRJ or OSA.

Students who receive warnings, written assignments, fines of $50 or less, or no contact orderswould not be able to appeal these sanctions.

SG Treasurer Mike Woodrum brought up a few concerns with the proposal during the meeting.

One concerned whether students on the committee would be compensated for the large time commitment this office would entail, both for training and for the time taken by the actual hearings.

This is a question that would have to be resolved by the OSA, because SG does not have control over the university‘s budget.

There was also a concern that due to the small size of the school, it is not possible that the identities of the members of the committee would remain anonymous.

Recent student concerns with the judicial processes conducted by the OSA, as well as the arrival of Dellinger, who has an extensive background in restorative justice, prompted Plotts to suggest instituting this committee to SG President Karmina Martinez during their weekly meetings.

“I served on a similar judicial board in college and it helped me better understand myself and my fellow students. It taught me the need for justice and mercy,” Plotts said via email. “Part of the education process is a growing sense of freedom, responsibility, and self-governance.  Allowing students to be involved in the judicial process promotes an opportunity for engagement in developing community values — at least in my opinion.”

After Martinez invited Plotts and Dellinger to present to SG, the decision-making power will be in the hands of Student Government.

“My guiding principle in this process is to afford as much freedom and responsibility to the student body as practically possible,” Plotts said.


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