Students bring perspective to Conduct Council hearings

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Author: Kirsten Wright

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If you’ve ever received an email calling you to meet with Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) staff after getting “written up,” you’re probably familiar with the term “Conduct Conference.” A Conduct Conference refers to the thrilling one-on-one meeting
between a student and a REHS official when the student pleads innocence or explains his or her guilt regarding a violation of some aspect of Occidental’s Student Code of Conduct. Within those ominous summoning emails lies a tucked away line stating that a student may opt out of the Conduct Conference and instead participate in a Conduct Council which will evaluate the student’s responsibility for the violation and potentially assign a punishment. 

A Conduct Council is a panel of one faculty member, one administrator, and two Honor Board student jurors. Honor Board jurors provide a student perspective that might not otherwise be present within cases of misconduct in the community and work to ensure that all are treated fairly during judicial processes on campus.

Honor Board is one of the three governing components of the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC). Senate and General Assembly make up the other two sections. Honor Board consists of ten jurors elected by students each semester. Jurors serve for four semesters and all students, regardless of class year, may be elected as jurors. 

The jurors’ job at Occidental is to sit on cases regarding the violation of the Student Code of Conduct and the Honor Board Principle of Honor, which states that “no student shall take unfair advantage of another student or member of the Occidental Community.” While the cases that are heard by Conduct Councils are typically more serious cases where the respondent is facing suspension or expulsion, anyone who is facing a Conduct Conference may choose to be heard by a panel including students, instead of just one administrator. 

“If any student wants to opt out of the Conduct Conference
and have their case heard by Honor Board, they can do that,” Honor Board juror Katie Wiese (sophomore) said. 

Honor Board jurors sit on three types of cases. The first type of case deals with general student misconduct, such as a violation of the drug and alcohol policy, and the second is academic misconduct, which might involve plagiarism or cheating. Once a case is ready to be heard at a Conduct Council, two jurors are assigned to sit and hear about the case from the complainant, defendant and witnesses. The two jurors are joined by a faculty member and a moderator and together they make up the Conduct Council, sanctioned with determining whether a student is responsible or not and assigning the appropriate consequences. Cases of sexual misconduct, however, do not include student jurors. “No students sit on those cases,” Honor Board Chair Charlotte Krovoza (senior) said. 

The third type of case heard by Honor Board jurors is an Honor Board case. This is a special, rare type of case that is heard by all ten Honor Board members instead of just two. The qualifications for such a case are vague, and simply allows that any person or group such as a club or organization who feels they have been taken unfair advantage of may bring forward a case.  

 ”We’re able to provide a student voice to something that otherwise would maybe tilt the other way,” Honor Board Chair Charlotte Krovoza (senior) said. “The number of cases per year varies greatly depending on vigilance of RAs and behavior of students, but the important thing to remember is that the jurors are always there to help and provide support. We’re students, and we get it.”  

While Honor Board plays a significant role in the judicial processes at Occidental, many students are unaware of the presence of Honor Board jurors.

“In the past we’ve had an underwhelming amount of people apply [and] I think that’s partly because people don’t know who we are,” Krovoza said. 

This may be due to the nature of the jobs of jurors, who must keep all information from cases confidential. Additionally, even if student respondents are pleased with the role of Honor Board jurors during Conduct Council meetings, they may be unlikely to talk about their experience as facing expulsion or suspension is typically a private matter. 

“Someone doesn’t come out of a meeting
and say, ‘I was facing expulsion. But there were two great Honor Board jurors who
asked some great questions!'” Krovoza said. 

Honor Board jurors are hoping to increase awareness of the board before next semester’s January election in order to cultivate a competitive election process and recruit the most qualified candidates. Two new jurors will be elected at the beginning of the semester and the current members hope to fill those positions with passionate, trustworthy students. 

“Getting the word out is important because we want the best of the best students and the most fair jurors to be on these really serious cases,” Krovoza said. ”We hope to have a really strong group of people running for the positions.” 

Honor Board is not often talked about, but the jurors hope students will keep them in mind, remembering that they act as an important liaison between students and the Occidental administration. All students are entitled to a fair trial at Occidental and are encouraged to utilize Honor Board as a resource. 

“You always have a right to a conduct
council,” Krovoza said, smiling.  ”If you’re not allowed one, email me.” 

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