COS review complete

by Steve Hoffman | 8/20/93 5:00am

Asserting faith in the College's disciplinary system, a review committee has recommended only minor changes designed to clarify and simplify the operations of the Committee on Standards.

Most of the Disciplinary Review Committee's recommendations are geared toward boosting student confidence in COS by educating the community about the system's role and making the process easier to understand.

The report, available at Baker Library's Reserve desk, also suggests several specific changes regarding COS's handling of sexual abuse cases.

The committee recommended the College expel both students found guilty of rape and repeat offenders of other types of sexual misconduct.

"Expelling repeat offenders, rather than pretending we can change their compulsions, seems to be the wisest course and the course that will offer other students the most protection," the report states.

In addition, the committee recommended that students re-admitted following a suspension for sexual abuse be required to meet with a College official to review expectations about subsequent behavior.

COS came under fire from students last spring in three rallies which protested the way the system handles sexual assault cases.

The 19-page report addresses the factors the committee thinks contributed to apparent student mistrust of the system.

"The report doesn't call for a large-scale overall restructuring of the system," said Dan Nelson, senior associate Dean of Students and review committee chair.

Dean of Students Lee Pelton formed the review committee last spring to address the apparent erosion of confidence in the College's disciplinary system, the report states.

Pelton said he first suggested a review of the system when he arrived at the College in 1991.

The committee, comprised of an equal number of students, faculty and administrators, invited student input in three open meetings during the revision process, but few students attended.

"We were puzzled and frustrated by the lack of response because we understood that part of the reason for our committee's existence was in response to perceived student dissatisfaction with the system," the report stated.

Nelson said the committee interpreted the apparent lack of student interest as a sign that widespread dissatisfaction with the system does not exist.

Pelton said he agreed with Nelson and added that he has seen student confidence in COS rise during the past year.

"In reviewing the system and various concerns that had been raised concerning it, we came to the conclusion that the system itself is not broken," the report states. "It may be that our greatest contribution is the confirmation of the basic legitimacy of the system and our confidence in it."

Although federal law prohibits the College from disclosing details about any cases, the report praised COS for its recent efforts to reduce the system's secrecy.

The College now publishes a listing of the types of cases heard and their outcomes and last spring conducted a mock COS sexual abuse hearing. The report urges the College to continue these efforts.

In order to achieve a more gender balanced hearing body, the committee recommends that a minimum of two women and two men serve on COS panel, which is comprised of at least five people.

The committee determined that while some students fault the College's disciplinary system for being too complex and legalistic, others criticize it for not providing the procedures and safeguards characteristic of civil and criminal courts.

Recognizing a need for a balance between the two extremes, the report urges the COS to take measures to educate the community about the role of a disciplinary system in a residential academic community.

"Our proceedings are administrative, not legal, in nature although they must meet the legal requirements of basic fairness," the report states.

The report suggests the College rewrite portions of the Green Pages in the Student Handbook to reduce COS's complexity and to simplify the judicial process.

Specifically, the committee recommended that COS reword many of its policies to eliminate "quasi-legalistic" language.

COS was urged to re-write the formalized "charge letter" and "notification" documents to avoid giving the impression of a criminal proceeding. The charge letter is filled out by persons bringing charges and the notification document is sent to students charged with misconduct.

"We want to be confident that our system is not overly bureaucratic," Pelton said.

The committee also recommends that the 33 regulations listed in the Code of Conduct of the Student Handbook be re-organized into several broad categories.

Pelton said he will meet with students, faculty and administrators in the coming months to discuss the report's specific recommendations and that changes could be in place at the beginning of Winter term. He would not speculate about which changes the College would implement.

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