Student Conduct Related Issues

May 3, 2010


The Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards is the campus entity responsible for upholding university policies as expressed through the Code of Student Conduct. A major principle that guides this work is that every member of the UC Berkeley community has a role in sustaining a safe, caring, and humane environment(UCB Principles of Community). The community is expected to comply with all laws, campus policies, and regulations that serve to support a scholarly environment that is hospitable to passionate debate and free speech. However, we recognize that the time, place, and manner in which individuals may express their points of view have been a serious point of contention this academic year.

The Center has been working through an unprecedented number of cases arising from campus protests. This year alone, the staff, comprising three full-time conduct officers, has managed 767 cases to date, and in the midst of an extraordinary level of scrutiny, controversy and, at times, criticism. Before the semester draws to a close, I want to inform the campus community about modifications we are making in our policies and practices. Although we will soon begin work, in concert with students, faculty, and staff, on a comprehensive review of our Code of Student Conduct, the input and feedback the campus has received to date has led us to implement interim steps consistent with Berkeley's commitment to supporting student rights and responsibilities in the context of an educational process.

These immediate changes include:

  • In the past we have relied on templates for many of our communications with students facing conduct charges. Going forward these letters will be reviewed and personalized for each individual based on the recognition that each situation is different. This will have a direct impact, for example, on restrictions included in any notice of an Interim Suspension. We will no longer include broad "no contact" directives in notifications of Interim Suspensions after a determination by campus counsel that the current restriction is overly broad.
  • Complainants, including UCPD, will no longer be copied on the office's correspondence with students. This step will ensure that we maximize confidentiality and share information only with those who have a compelling need to know.
  • We will provide clearer, more focused explanations of violations. For example, we have in the past cited section 102.08 in its entirety, even though many of the examples it cites were not relevant to an individual's case, leading to confusion regarding allegations and possible consequences.
  • Although dispersal orders were provided on December 11, 2009 to individuals occupying Wheeler Hall, we have decided not to pursue student conduct actions against students involved in activities during Live Week on the morning of December 11. Given the genuine confusion on the part of some students regarding dispersal orders, we understand the need to continue our efforts to educate faculty, staff, and students on specific campus policies so that individuals can make more informed decisions about actions governed by the Code of Student Conduct. For your reference and additional clarity, and in order to avoid similar confusion in the future, the university policy regarding time, place, and manner of public expression and other applicable policies can be found at http://students.berkeley.edu/uga/regs.stm
  • Since January 2010, staff members from the Center for Student Conduct no longer present evidence to hearing panels while, at the same time, serving as the due process consultant. Our review had already determined that this practice creates the appearance of a conflict of interest and is not supportive of our commitment to a fair process. Therefore, two conduct staff members will be available at hearing panels. One will serve as the presenter on behalf of the University and the other will serve as the consultant to the hearing panel on process/policy questions.

While these changes in Center practice will improve the Center's implementation of the Code, any changes in the disciplinary procedures set forth in the Code itself will have to await the formal review process, and may also include a system-wide review. Therefore, the Center will continue to apply certain Code provisions that have been the subject of debate including:

  • Right to Counsel: Attorneys can serve as advisors to students throughout the hearing. The role of advisors in student conduct hearings is described in Section l. F. of the Code. Advisors (whether or not legal counsel) may advise and consult with the student throughout the hearing but they normally do not participate directly in the hearing process. The hearing panel may, in its discretion, grant permission under unusual circumstances for more direct participation by the student's advisor. This policy has withstood legal scrutiny in a number of court cases involving other educational institutions across the country and is based on the fact that these are not judicial proceedings, and that the goals for student empowerment and personal agency are best met when students, to the greatest extent possible, speak for themselves.
  • Standard of Proof: We will continue to base findings on evidence that indicates it is more likely than not that a violation of the code did or did not occur, a standard which also meets legal requirements.

We believe that overall our Code of Student Conduct reflects an appropriate balance between being an educational and not overly-legalistic process, while still protecting the basic, due-process rights of our students. It should also be noted that the majority of cases on this campus are resolved informally and efficiently because our process is rooted in dialogue, mediation, alternative dispute resolution, and other best practices. For these reasons our approach is followed widely both within the UC system and throughout the country because it equitably supports the principle that actions violating a code designed to protect the rights of others must have consequences. Earlier this year, the Office of General Counsel confirmed the appropriateness and applicability of this standard. Although we know that policies and practices can always be reviewed, and if necessary, improved, we believe that our entire community benefits from a student conduct process that is aligned with that fundamental goal.

Finally, since the last revision to the Code was completed in 2003, I have asked EVCP George Breslauer to appoint a taskforce to review our current Code of Student Conduct, with the goal of ensuring that the document is easier to navigate and policies and practices are in full alignment with campus culture, values, and principles of community. We will continue our practice of seeking input and consultation from ASUC, Academic Senate, and other campus partners regarding the Code and its implementation. Difficult circumstances always create opportunities to listen and learn from one another. We are hopeful that our continued dialogue will remain collaborative and respectful with the goal of making our campus community stronger than when we first started.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions that follow immediately below.

Sincerely,

Harry Le Grande
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

 

 


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why has it taken so long to deal with these cases?

Confluence of issues below:

  • Higher load of cases; 767 for 3 staff members
  • Took time to get police reports/waiting for damage reports and costs associated
  • Time spent responding to meetings with faculty, legal affairs, other departments, and students to answer questions related to the process
  • Coordination of schedules for staff, students, and hearing panelists
  • Students did not respond quickly to 1st notices, at times delaying the deadlines for informal resolution; some students were also advised not to engage with the Center for Student Conduct
  • Additional time required to attempt informal resolutions
  • Sick, vacation, furlough days for staff interspersed

What is the current schedule for resolving the November 18-20 and the December 12 events? Will there be conduct hearings over the summer

  • Cases for Nov 18 for students facing single violation will be heard at one hearing the week of May 24th
  • Cases for Nov 20 for students facing single violation will be heard at one hearing the week of May 24th
  • Cases for Nov 18-20 for students with multiple violations will be held separately with each student and expected to be completed by early June
  • Cases related to the late evening of December 11/early morning of December 12 will be held during the week of May 3rd

Why are you dropping the conduct charges for 12/11 but not for 11/18 or 11/20, when individuals were not even arrested for the November events?

  • These incidents were independent of each other and differed in the severity of impact to the health and safety of campus community members. Hearings have been set or are in the process of being scheduled.

How many total cases related to protest cases are left to hear?

  • There are 54 cases involving 48 UCB students and an additional 11 cases involving 11 non-UCB students from other UC campuses. The Code of Student Conduct has jurisdiction for violations of the Code for UC students while on another UC campus and allows the conduct offices of the involved campuses to decide where the behavior will be addressed (Section IV.B.3).
  • It is the goal to complete the cases by early June or over the summer as needed. While students can request extensions due to the summer break, the conduct process does not stop during summer or other campus breaks. The CSC will view each case individually and allow extensions under extenuating circumstances but the goal is to complete the cases as not to further delay the cases that occurred last fall.

What is the anticipated process and timeline for revising the Student Code of Conduct?

  • EVCP Breslauer will consult with the Academic Senate, ASUC, Graduate Assembly, and others about the composition of the task force, which will be expected to complete its analysis within the 2010-2011 academic year.