One year later, student board lacks participants

by Amelia Acosta | 1/30/11 11:00pm

In its first year, the Organizational Adjudication Committee student board has struggled to pull together the five-person quorum necessary to hold hearings, according to Director of Judicial Affairs Nathan Miller. The OAC moved to a student-run board in spring 2010 following direction from former Student Body President Frances Vernon '10, The Dartmouth previously reported.

"One of the challenges we've had this term is that we've had an extremely difficult time getting a quorum of students to participate," Miller said. "We've had to cancel multiple hearings because we couldn't get a five-person quorum."

Miller attributed much of the difficulty of attracting students to the recent creation of the student board, and said that the OAC has attempted to address this issue by reaching out to campus for new members. This past week, the OAC sent an e-mail to Dartmouth sophomores, juniors and seniors inviting them to apply to serve on the student board.

Although Miller declined to release the number of students currently serving on the student board, he said recruitment is a top priority.

"We've tried to rectify [the lack of a quorum] by trying to get more officials elected and trained," Miller said. "Because this is so new and still a pilot program, a lot of the original committee members have graduated."

Part of the problem in achieving a quorum also comes from potential conflicts of interest for members on the student board, Dennis Zeveloff '12, a member of the student board, said.

Students who are a member of the organization or who know the individuals involved in a case cannot serve on the board for that case, he said.

"I think that might be part of the problem with the quorum if the organization has 50 people, it's pretty likely a conflict of interest will appear," he said. "We work to have an accurate representation of the student body, but if there is a conflict of interest we work to replace individuals a week ahead of time."

Since its inception, the student board has seen approximately 12 cases, according to Miller. Cases that could result in a greater punishment than a one-term suspension are referred to the full OAC, he said.

"If there is an extensive history of the issue or multiple violations within a given time frame, [the case] will likely be deferred to the full OAC," Zeveloff said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth. "Any allegations of hazing come directly to us."

The student board is responsible for holding hearings on lesser infractions that could result in less than a term of probation for the organization involved, Miller said.

"The student board hears all low-level adjudication, and they don't have the power to de-recognize an organization, which is the most severe action the OAC can take," Miller said. "They will most often see cases of unregistered social events, keg violations damage that is not extensive in value or cost and minimal property theft."

The types of punishments that the student board orders are "fairly uniform," according to Miller.

"The most typical punishment is social probation, which is usually the one that students are most concerned about and talk about the most," Miller said. "This is a restriction of social events with alcohol. Organizations can also receive probation, which is a serious warning from the College but with no restrictions on alcohol."

The pilot program will work with the Committee on Standards and the Dean of the College's Office to present a report on the program's effectiveness to acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears and Associate Dean of the College for Campus Life April Thompson, according to Miller.

"We'll discuss how the pilot is going, if there needs to be modifications and if it's successful or not," he said.

Students often serve on both the COS and OAC, according to Zeveloff, who works with both groups.

"The COS and OAC have really started to blend," Zeveloff said. "All the students at the last OAC hearing I was at, myself included, were elected to be on the COS."

Despite the low student turnout applying for the student board is simple interested students can join the OAC through a one-page application process, according to Zeveloff.

"I would say that there are enough ways available and times to apply that if you're interested in getting on [OAC], you can," Zeveloff said. "Training only takes a few hours and you are run through how the cases are set up, possible violations and ways that the school ensures fairness and confidentiality for everyone."

Though infrequent, divides between students and faculty on handling issues sometimes emerge in OAC meetings, Zeveloff said.

"Students tend to focus more on whether or not the violation hurts campus life, while faculty focuses more on legal and community implications," he said. "I think students also think about how they would want a hearing to go if their group was called in, and take that into account when making their decisions."

The overall goal of the OAC and the student board is to achieve long-term improvement for on-campus organizations, Miller said.

"Our goal is not to punish organizations but to set them up for success to learn from an event so it doesn't happen again," he said. "When we can't achieve a quorum, it is frustrating for all parties involved because we want to move the process forward."