Another New Conduct Code: Recap of Summer Developments

by Josh Marxen

Shortly before the end of the previous academic year, a proposal to change the Student Conduct Code yet again was submitted to the UCSD community for review and criticism. A finalized draft of the changes was approved by Chancellor Khosla on July 2nd, and will be put into effect on September 15th. This will be the third version of the Student Conduct Code to be enforced in three years. The latest version was drafted to address concerns over last year’s changes brought up by students and faculty quickly after it was put in effect in September. These concerns mainly dealt with the apparent increase in administrative power (such as “Interim Actions”) to order disciplinary action against students and the unclear criteria which could be used to justify such administrative action.

This article will not cover all of the changes in detail. The California Review has written extensively on this topic at the beginning and end of last year. Instead, this article will focus on the aspects of the Code which have changed over the summer.

Not many changes have been made since the comment period last spring. There did not seem to be a strong desire on campus to voice the concerns raised at the beginning of last year (possibly because it was nearly finals week of Spring quarter when the changes were announced). The most significant and controversial issues surrounding Interim Actions have not been addressed.

However, the new draft of the Code still represents an improvement over the last one. Technical errors have been eliminated, and unforeseen contingencies have been addressed. Overall, the Code, as well as the procedures that have governed its change, is more transparent about how the Code is administered.

The only significant update to occur over the summer is that the details of multiple-respondent Student Conduct Reviews have been explicitly articulated. (Some vocabulary: a respondent is a student charged with violating the Conduct Code; a Student Conduct Review is the “trial” held to determine whether the student is guilty, and what punishments should be administered; and a “sanction” is a penalty or punishment for a violation of the Code.) Last year, there were several incidents of misconduct which involved cooperative activity among multiple students (details of these cases are withheld due to privacy concerns). Last year’s version of the Code had no procedures in place for holding joint Conduct Reviews for multiple respondents, so as part of the changes proposed in the Spring, this language was added.

There were problems with the original wording of this language. In general, it was too vague. It left out too many details about the implementation. How do they decide whether to have a group Conduct Review rather than a set of individual Reviews? Do the respondents get to choose whether to have a group Review, and, if not, who decides? Are the students sanctioned as a group, or is each individual sanctioned according to their level of participation in the misconduct?

The final draft of the Code has cleared up a few of these details. According to the new Code: “A respondent assigned to a group Student Conduct Review may request to have his/her Review handled separately from the other Respondents.” The request must be submitted to the Director of Student Conduct before the group Review is scheduled. In deciding whether or not to grant the request, the criteria are “the basis for the request” and “the practicality of conducting multiple, separate Reviews.” If the request is granted, the Director of Student Conduct may schedule a preliminary “Supplemental” Review to present witness testimony, documents, and other evidence about the incident with all of the respondents present at one time, with subsequent individual Reviews for the individuals who requested separate Reviews later.

The takeaway is that these details are decided at the discretion of the Director of Student Conduct, but the request process is straightforward and clearly laid out.

That is the only significant change that occurred over the summer. A more detailed breakdown of all of the changes that have occurred over the past two years appears in previous articles here and here. Read all three versions of the Code from before 2012, last year, and the latest version, as well as a summary of the current changes.

Given the momentum and institutional memory (or lack thereof) around this story, it appears that the Interim Actions are here to stay. Let us hope that the administration has the sense to not punish students for actions committed by others.

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