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The Scarlet & Black

Students take complete voting control over JudCo

Beginning next year, Judicial Council (JudCo) will be comprised entirely of students, eliminating the faculty vote currently held by Professor Brian Jaworski, Physical Education. A faculty member will remain on the council to act as a nonvoting advisor, as will Dean of Students Travis Greene.

“We’ll still be able to provide guidance and ask questions of various parties, if needed,” Greene wrote in an email to the S&B. “But the actual fact-finding and voting [to see if students are found responsible] will be done by students only. In addition, returning board members who receive additional training will serve as presiding officers.”

This change marks an effort by the Student Government Association to formalize an already existing dynamic within the Judicial Council, where students lead discussions and the faculty member is only there to give advice. Several other schools such as St. Olaf, the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary have already made similar changes to their student-run hearing boards. The change also eliminates the possibility that a scheduling conflict with Jaworski will prevent or delay the council from meeting.

“I do not anticipate any changes in the types of educational outcomes that come out of JudCo hearings,” Greene wrote in an email. “Rather, I expect there will be greater student agency and buy-in with the student conduct process as students will be the sole voting members of this hearing board. I also anticipate greater leadership development opportunities for those returning board members who serve as presiding officers. In essence, these changes merely reflect, model and bolster self-governance in our residential community.”

Judco plays an important disciplinary role within the College. Along with the College Hearing Board, the Judicial Council hears cases of potential student conduct violations.

“When Houston and I first arrived to Grinnell, we noticed two interesting things about our hearing boards that seemed in possible tension with self governance: 1.) No student representation on the College Hearing Board, and 2.) JudCo … was not comprised completely of students,“ Greene wrote in an email.

Of the two hearing boards, Judicial Council specifically deals with less serious infractions and responds in more of an educational rather than punitive capacity. A typical Judicial Council case might involve smoking in dorm rooms or minor damage to College property, while the College Hearing Board rules on cases that could result in a student’s dismissal from the College.

In the Judicial Council, members are chosen by SGA VPAA Liting Cong, the rest of the SGA cabinet and Greene. Cases are heard individually by a five-member committee drawn randomly from the pool of Judicial Council members. Members can then abstain from hearing cases that present a conflict of interest. For 2011-12, new members were chosen via blind application largely based on their involvement within the campus community.

“We were looking for a diverse group,” Cong said. “If you had participated in sports, mediation, social justice training. If you were generally concerned with campus issues. As well as how you understood self-governance.”

New council members appeared eager to further their focus beyond education to provide solutions as well.

“We have been talking about revising JudCo to be more restorative justice in its practices. When we hear cases now, hopefully when those policies get in place, instead of strict punishment it will be about how we can heal the community instead of fines,” said member Taylor Nys ’13.

For several years, additional issues like a lack of transparency prompted calls for JudCo reform. In a step towards remedying these concerns, SGA recently made the list of Judicial Council members public, and is working towards other transparency goals. However, the hearings remain secret in order to guarantee the privacy of the students involved.

“We are trying to make members more out in the open, so students know who they are and they can serve as educational [resources],” Cong said.

Next year’s Judicial Council members are Joseph Abraham ’14, Camila Barrios-Camacho ’12, Aude Bouagnon ’12, Remy Ferber ’14, Nys, Aurora Quinn-Elmore ’12, Amar Sarkar ’12 (now abroad) and Lizzy Steuber ‘14.

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