On Monday April 30, the University of Dallas student senate met to debate and vote on the hotly contested proposal to add a judicial branch to student government (SG). The final meeting of the academic year ended in a 15-13 vote rejecting the proposal.
The idea for the student-run judiciary first came from Executive Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Dr. John Plotts in the previous academic year and was developed by interested senators and executive council members over the past year. SG voted to continue exploring the proposal last semester.
The proposed changes to the bylaws would have added an alternative for students going through the Office of Student Affairs conduct process to be judged by their peers rather than by a resident coordinator. The addition of the branch was aimed at promoting a system of fraternal correction within the conduct process.
The proposal was debated for more than an hour at Monday’s meeting.
The issue of the proposed judiciary was so controversial that unnamed senators pushed to have discussion of the matter in a private executive session of the senate, despite weekly senate meetings being public.
“Even though our meetings are open to the public, since we operate under Robert’s Rules [of order] we can move for an executive session where we basically … can choose who is viewing the discussion,” Acting Vice President Allison Pettyjohn said. “Some senators are concerned … [we] are proposing this as a way of helping alleviate that concern.”
This motion is unprecedented in SG’s history. This was reflected in the vote of the senate when the motion failed as only one unnamed senator voted to make the meeting private.
“To say the least, I think [making the meeting private] would be undermining the authority of the SG senate specifically because it would send a message to the student body that we do not want them to see what we are doing,” Senator Thomas Mosemeyer said.
Senators opposed to the student judiciary met privately, a move criticized by many senators, prior to the senate meeting to formulate arguments against the judiciary that they went on to iterate in the meeting.
Arguments for the proposed student judiciary focused on promoting this extension of SG as a vote of confidence in the community of leadership present in the student body of the UD. Arguments addressed concerns about the type of people who would serve on the board and the repercussions the student jurors would potentially face.
“[The proposed judiciary] will only attract students who want to build their resumes and not people who want to give to their community,” said Senator Patrick Friddle.
However, not all agreed with his reasoning.
“[The UD mission statement] makes it very clear that the purpose of the University of Dallas is to create students who have the intellectual and moral ability to confront difficult and challenging issues,” Chair of the Judicial Review Committee Henry Jaros said. “If we do not believe that there are students on this campus that can serve in this capacity we must believe that the faculty, the Core and the students are failing in their pursuit of the mission of the university.”