This morning, the Georgetown University Student Association mounted a poster in Red Square of an open letter to Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson calling for the “immediate adoption” of the proposed changes to raise the evidentiary standard in the Student Code of Conduct. The letter is for students to read and sign on their way to class. “We’ve heard many students express deep frustration with student conduct processes,” the letter reads. “In general, the system appears unpredictable and opaque, and few students view their interactions with the Office of Student Conduct as a learning experience.” [Italics theirs.]
This open letter is part of GUSA’s effort to show Olson that there is overwhelming student support for raising the Student Code of Conduct standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing,” except in cases of sexual assault, which must comply with the Department of Education’s standards. In particular, the letter in Red Square is meant to educate students on why this “clear and convincing” burden of proof is an important issue. On Thursday, September 27, GUSA will hold a referendum on the same issue.
“We certainly won’t give up if the referendum doesn’t elicit a satisfactory response from the administration, and we’ll just continue to pressure them until we get a response that is satisfactory to students,” GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount wrote in an email to Vox.
In the past, GUSA referendums held significant power of persuasion with the administration. When the university attempted to enforce a total ban on kegs in 2006, GUSA conducted a referendum where the majority of students rejected this proposal. The referendum held enough weight that the administration revoked this ban.
Some GUSA members voiced concern at the last meeting that an unenforced, stand-alone referendum will not have enough power to sway Olson’s end decision, and may even result in a loss of credibility for GUSA.
Kohnert-Yount views the situation from a different angle. “If we show overwhelming student support for ‘clear and convincing,’ it’s going to be that much harder for the administration to justify a decision that goes against the self-expressed interests of students,” she wrote. “That’s why it’s so important to us to educate every student on why this is important and why they need to vote in this election…hence the letter in Red Square.”