Posts Tagged “Clear and Convincing”
This afternoon, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson announced his approval of raising the evidentiary standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing” for all on campus students, effective January 1, 2013. The standard does not, however, extend to off campus students.
“The decision to change that standard for incidents that happen starting on campus…it’s a change that acknowledges in an important way that this issue matters to students, that it has been a topic of interest for students broadly and student leadership,” Olson said. He emphasized that the GUSA referendum and other such efforts on the behalf of students to convince Olson were heard and taken seriously.
“We have not made a change for incidents off campus. We take the interests of everyone involved in our community seriously…and we take interest in the perspective of our local neighbors and community neighbors seriously.”
Olson also added that the University is soon to undertake a review of the Off Campus Student Life office. “We want this process to be reasonable and appropriate for students…and neighbors,” he said. “Students’ voices have mattered a great deal here…there are other voices that matter as well and we want to be sure we are being thoughtful.”
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As expected, the referendum on changing the Student Code of Conduct policy from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing” has passed with an overwhelming majority. The total number of students supporting the measure was 2,507, with only 93 opposed. In total number of votes cast in the election was 2,629, which is more than the previous referendum on the SAFE reform from last December, in which 2,446 votes were cast.
The referendum is non-binding, and the final decision still rests with Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson. Olson has previously said that he will not make a decision until the conclusion of an outside audit of the Office of Student Affairs is complete.
The audit was conducted by administrators from a university that has the clear and convincing standard and one that does not. The referendum is intended to show Olson and the administration the overwhelming support the student body has towards changing the Student Code of Conduct.
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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.”
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At last night’s meeting, the Georgetown University Student Association Senate and Executive met to vote on the bill that describes the proposed changes to the Student Code of Conduct evidentiary standard. The bill passed unanimously, with all 12 members voting in its favor.
In the Senate’s last meeting before elections on September 27, the main topic of discussion was the recommendation for the change in the Student Code of Conduct that has been in the works since the spring, officially passed on April 26. Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson made clear that he would postpone his decision until the end of September, or when the audit of the Office of Student Affairs is complete. The office is being reviewed by one university that has implemented the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard, and one that has not.
GUSA expected this resolution to be implemented over five months ago and is, therefore, taking further action. Senate Transition Chair Nate Tisa (SFS’14) said in his opening statement the “view, early on, as members of the executive as well as members of the committee, is that this is not acceptable to us.” Steps have been taken to remedy the situation and educate the student body on the benefits of this new standard.
When the floor opened for debate, many senators spoke in favor of the bill, stressing both the difficulty and the importance of its implementation. GUSA Senator Samuel Greco (SFS’15) mentioned the “common effort” this referendum will require. “It’s going to take all of us going through dorms, knocking on doors and getting the word out. But I think that its essential for the betterment of the student body and for the end of this real disservice that the ‘more likely than not’ standard is,” he said.
GUSA Senator Jay Factor (COL’14), also strongly in favor of the bill, expressed a critical concern about the non-binding nature of this referendum. “Students might think that this referendum is actually going to change it,” he said. But if this endeavor is not successful, “this could make students cynical towards GUSA.”
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Yesterday, at Georgetown University Student Association’s final session of the semester, the Senate passed a resolution in favor of raising the burden of proof standard to “clear and convincing” in the Student Code of Conduct. The resolution, voted on at yesterday afternoon’s Senate meeting, received unanimous consent.
This clause, recently approved by the Disciplinary Review Committee, must now be implemented by Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson. The current Code of Conduct standard holds a “more likely than not” burden of proof to find a student guilty of a violation.
GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) created a Hoya Roundtables Ideascale post that has garnered almost 200 votes in the past 24 hours. The vote is part of an effort to uphold the DRC recommendation and encourage Dr. Olson to follow through with implementation as soon as possible. Ideascale, crowd-sourced ideas forum created by the COO Chris Augostini’s office, allows students to submit ideas or concerns related to student life and other students can vote these ideas up or down based on whether or not they support these ideas. The idea submitted by Gustafson reached the third rank in terms of popularity, followed by an idea to allow non-MSB students full access to the Hariri Building and an idea to provide campus-wide wireless Internet.
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