Student Senate seeks reformed discipline code

By Dan Petrella

The student members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate’s Committee on Student Discipline are pushing for major changes to the way student discipline is handled at the University.

The Committee on Student Discipline is comprised of nine faculty and four student members. Committee members and Illinois Student Senate co-presidents Ryan Ruzic, junior in LAS, and Josh Rohrscheib, graduate student, have drafted nine proposed changes to the University’s discipline procedures.

“We need to have a very clear, fair, consistent procedure,” Rohrscheib said.

According to Ruzic and Rohrscheib’s proposals, one of the main goals is to make the discipline policy easier for students to understand.

“The procedures for student discipline not only need to undergo rewriting to make them more understandable and accessible to students, it should also resolve the inner conflict of having a process which is inherently adversarial yet claims not to be,” the proposals state.

The current process begins with a discipline officer in the Office of Student Conflict Resolution who receives reports of alleged violations of University rules. The discipline officer reviews these reports and any accompanying materials to make sure they are factual and complete and then decides if it is likely that rules have been violated.

The accused student then receives notice to see the discipline officer. After meeting with the student, the discipline officer decides whether or not a violation has taken place and determines what punishment the student will receive. At this point the student is given the option of signing an Acceptance of Case Disposition form.

“Signing the (Acceptance of Case Disposition) form constitutes a waiver of the right to appeal,” according to the Office of Student Conflict Resolution’s Web site.

If they choose not to sign, students may appeal to the appropriate disciplinary subcommittee for a hearing. Decisions made by these subcommittees can then be appealed to the Committee on Student Discipline for a further hearing.

A large number of cases get settled one on one with a discipline officer and do not require a hearing, said Associate Dean Richard Justice, executive director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.

Ruzic said discipline officers often tell students that the punishment they agree to by signing the Acceptance of Case Disposition form is the least severe they are likely to receive, and they may receive a more severe punishment if they opt for a hearing.

“As a result of this, the number of students who appeal is very, very small,” Ruzic said, “And I think a lot of this is not the result of students thinking whatever punishment they got was fair or warranted, but rather the result of them being intimidated by the hearings officers and the people in the student discipline office.”

Ruzic and Rohrscheib’s proposals also include a recommendation that students be given three to five business days to consider signing an Acceptance of Case Disposition form and a week to withdraw the form once signed.

They are also proposing that students be given the full body of evidence that will be presented against them at least five days prior to their hearing.

Justice declined to comment on the proposals because he said they are current business of the Committee on Student Discipline.