When the Michigan Student Assembly voted earlier this week to rescind its support for a controversial amendment to the University’s student code of conduct, the vote threw a wrench into a bureaucratic process that had been underway for months. It also left administrators and other campus officials scrambling to figure out where the proposal goes from here.

The amendment, which would have lowered the standard of evidence needed to find students guilty of violating the Statement of Student of Rights and Responsibilities, was a collaborative effort from many campus organizations since its inception. One of the main goals was to reduce the burden of proof needed to punish students for violations of the Statement, bringing the University in line with many other colleges across the country. Additionally, the change would bring the burden of proof in line with that of faculty, staff and students at Rackham Graduate School here on campus.

Currently, the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities requires “clear and convincing” evidence to prove a student guilty of violating rules set forth in the student code — meaning the case reviewer must be confident a violation occurred.

However, the proposed amendment would lower the standard to require a “preponderance of evidence” — meaning the case reviewer would merely need to believe it was more likely than not that a violation occurred.

The proposed changes were brought before MSA in October for consideration. The assembly voted at the time to move it forward without debate. However, a vote by MSA members on Tuesday night reversed the group’s position, terminating the assembly’s support for the amendment.

An unclear picture remains in the wake of that vote as to where the proposal currently stands. Some University officials told the Daily that the proposal will need to be re-introduced through one of three select routes in order to be properly considered. But other campus leaders said that the proposal is still under consideration and no further action needs to be taken because MSA’s vote had no bearing on the process.

On Tuesday, prior to the MSA’s decision to withdraw its support for the proposal, Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper said the proposal was initially submitted through MSA because the proposal’s authors wanted to include student input in the process.

However, in a phone interview last night, University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said the President’s Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues could, if it so chooses, resubmit the proposed amendment through the Senate Assembly or through an executive officer for reconsideration.

“There are three different ways a proposal can come forward: either through MSA, through SACUA or through the executive officers,” Cunningham said. “Now that MSA has chosen not to move forward, the proponents of this proposal can approach SACUA or the executive officers to move it forward to the president.”

The Office of Student Conflict Resolution’s website — which outlines the process for revising the Statement — details that all proposed amendments must have been submitted by a Nov. 2 deadline to be considered in this round of revisions.

Despite the deadline, Cunningham — who cited a conversation with a representative from the University’s Office of the General Counsel — said though the Nov. 2 deadline for submission of proposals was established as a guideline, the advisory commission would be allowed to resubmit its proposed amendment.

“The deadline was created by (Student Relations Advisory Committee) to help them manage their review process, but it’s not part of the Statement process and it’s not a binding deadline on the process,” Cunningham said.

Asked whether other groups would also be allowed to break the internal deadline and submit proposals, Cunningham said she believed they could.

Cunningham said she wasn’t sure whether the amendment’s supporters would try to resubmit the proposal or whether, if they opt to do that, doing so would delay the process of reviewing other proposals.

Beth Sullivan, a senior associate for advocacy and policy in the Center for the Education of Women and a member on the President’s Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues, said in an interview last night that she had received conflicting information about the proposal from the Office of the General Counsel.

Sullivan said that earlier in the week an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel had told her that because MSA had already submitted the proposal, MSA’s recent vote to withdraw support would not affect the proposal’s consideration.

Sullivan said given the new information, she wasn’t sure what would happen with the proposal.

“If we have to go back and have another sort of formal proposal going through MSA or another channel, then I guess that’s our next step,” Sullivan said.

She added, “I’m thinking that we probably would not go through the executive officers or the Senate.”

Sullivan said she believed it would be most likely that a revised proposal from MSA would be pursued.

“People can debate about how representative the student government really is, but I think it’s most likely to be successful if it’s submitted through MSA,” Sullivan said.

“The only way I can see that happening is to address the desires of many of the MSA representatives, who said they wanted to see a resolution that would suggest using preponderance of the evidence for sexual harassment, stalking and sexual assault and use clear and convincing for all the other violations,” she continued.

Sullivan added that she and other supporters of the proposed amendment were “upset” that MSA did not put forth a revised proposal at Tuesday’s meeting when it revoked its support for the original proposal.

MSA President Abhishek Mahanti wrote in an e-mail interview that he thought MSA representatives would be receptive to a revised amendment that would limit the number of violations in which preponderance of evidence would be used.

“In debate, the point was brought up that, though many representatives support the preponderance of evidence in sexual assault and stalking cases, it was not appropriate for that language to arbiter all forms of conflict,” Mahanti wrote. “I do believe MSA would consider a revised proposal lowering the standard of evidence in sexual assault and stalking cases.”

Mahanti added that he believed a revised proposal wasn’t introduced at Tuesday’s meeting because MSA does not act without first consulting with the student population on campus.

“It may not have been in the best interests of students to haphazardly present a revised proposal at Tuesday’s meeting without proper vetting from the greater University (community),” Mahanti wrote.

Six other amendments are currently under review by the Student Relations Advisory Committee. The committee is expected to submit their recommendations to the Office of the General Counsel for review in February.

After reviewing the proposals, the Office of the General Counsel will forward the proposals to University President Mary Sue Coleman, who will make a final decision on the proposals in April. Per regulations set forth in the Statement, Coleman is encouraged to explain her rationale for adopting or vetoing amendment proposals.

Any amendments approved by Coleman would go into effect in July, when the University’s next fiscal year begins.

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