Thanks to a change to University policy, students will soon be eligible for a sort of jury duty through the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. They won’t be forced to serve, though, said Law School student Mitch Holzrichter, the chair of the Code of Conduct Advisory Board, an Michigan Student Assembly committee that recommended the change.
Students accused of violating the University’s Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities are given the option of having their case heard before a student panel.
The student panel that arbitrates the hearings will now be picked randomly from the entire student body to ensure that the panel accurately represents University students, Holzrichter said.
All University students will now be eligible to receive a summons to serve on a panel, but students will be free to turn down the invitation, Holzrichter said.
The policy mirrors that of American jury trials, where defendants are entitled to a jury of their peers. Under the new system, the Michigan student body will be more accurately represented because every Michigan student will be eligible for selection, supporters of the change say.
The panel was previously comprised of volunteers, which resulted in the panels being overwhelmingly made up of student leaders, Holzrichter said.
The amendment, one of several changes to the statement, is aimed at giving students involved in conflict resolution more rights, said Jennifer Meyer Schrage, the director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.
Schrage sent an e-mail to all students earlier this month outlining the changes to the statement. The rules were amended in April after consultation with the MSA’s Student Relations Advisory Committee.
“Some themes in the dialogue around the decisions were maintaining the student driven nature of the process and maintaining the educational focus, and also a balance between complainants and responding student rights,” Schrage said.
The statement also now requires OSCR resolution coordinators to inform students before proceeding with any hearings that they have the right to meet with an adviser, which could be a parent, other students or a legal adviser.
The student bringing the complaint must now agree to have it heard by a student panel. The accused party previously had the right to choose whether a student panel or resolution officer would hear the complaint.
Holzrichter said this change was made in part because the old system made cases of sexual misconduct problematic. A student accusing another person of sexual assault, for example, might be too embarrassed for their case to be heard before a student panel.