Yesterday, University President Lee Bollinger announced the changes that will be made to the Student Code of Conduct, effective July 1. The University, in accepting a few of the changes proposed by the Student Relations Advisory Committee (SRAC) with input from the Michigan Student Assembly and the Civil Liberties Board, has shown that it is attempting to make the Code a more fluid, “living” body that is receptive to student input. However, some of the most important recommendations for revisal were not supported. An e-mail sent to the student body last night states that “President Bollinger accepted 85 percent (40 of 47) of SRAC”s proposals. This number is very misleading because it only takes into account the recommendations of the SRAC, while a much higher percentage of overall recommendations such as those made directly by MSA were not supported.

Despite some positive changes, the fact remains that the Code of Conduct, now renamed the “Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities,” infringes on student rights. The Office of Student Conflict Resolution, which oversaw enforcement of the old Code, says that the Statement is more in line with the University”s “educational mission,” though the document still attempts to dictate student life with quasi-legal language and punitive measures. The Code must be abolished in its entirety.

It is important to recognize that the University has made some positive changes to the Code. One change is that of precedent, or “to ensure fairness and consistency, student panelists and Resolution Officers will have access to details, rationales and results of past cases.” It is very important that panels have access to past cases in so they can make informed judgments based on precedent and therefore ensure consistency in their rulings.

However, important recommendations made by the SRAC were not supported. Under both the Code and the Statement, hearsay may still be administered as evidence. In Bollinger”s rationale for not supporting the recommendation that hearsay not be considered evidence he wrote, “There is nothing unfair about using hearsay evidence in the arbitration process.” This statement is unacceptable and goes to demonstrate the inherent unfairness in an arbitration process that, while having potentially punitive results, is not governed by legal standards.

Students should also be allowed to have advocates to speak on their behalf as well as advisers to provide general advice. When a student faces suspension or expulsion, that student should be able to exhaust every possible resource that can aid him or her in making a strong case in his or her defense.

The new Statement also still allows for the University”s own brand of “double jeopardy.” Bollinger did not support an amendment that stated, “A student may not be charged under the Code for behavior for which the student has been acquitted in a civil or criminal court.” It is not reasonable to expect that a student defend himself on multiple occasions for the same charge, especially if that student has been acquitted before. It is unlikely that any arbitration done under the Code or the Statement will result in a fairer decision that one reached in any Michigan court of law.

The Student Code of Conduct and its revised form, “The Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities,” are unfair to the students charged under them and need to be abolished. Bollinger should not justify his refusal to support important recommendations made by the SRAC as an effort to further the “educational” intent of the code, thereby masking a punitive process as an educational one. It is a poor argument to say that students should not be allowed an advocate because this inhibits the educational objective of the Code and the processes that occur under it.

When students face suspension or expulsion at the University they should be allowed to do everything possible to make a solid case in their defense. The spirit in which Bollinger rejected certain important suggestions for amendments demonstrates the inherent flaws in the existence of any such code.

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