Letter to the Editor | Students deserve transparency with conduct investigations
January 21, 2021
Imagine the uproar if the Supreme Court decided a case impacting the lives of millions, but did not issue an opinion. Imagine the anger if a family law judge denied custody of a child to a parent, but failed to explain why.
While the American judiciary is relatively transparent, our University’s equivalent of a court is permitted to operate in near-total secrecy. Our University maintains two subcommittees on student misconduct. The judges on these subcommittees hear cases of students accused of violating the Student Code, and impose sanctions: anything from a reprimand to a dismissal. These are serious cases with serious punishments, yet these subcommittees do not issue public explanations of their decisions. They should. Judges write not just for the parties in a case, but for future individuals who end up stuck behind this process’s veil of secrecy.
Don’t future complainants and respondents have a right to know, at least, the precedents set in cases similar to their own? Doesn’t the campus deserve to know that the Student Code is being administered in a fair way? The answer to both of these questions is yes.
Of course, the panels should respect students’ privacy rights, but regular courts handle privacy just fine in their published opinions. Real judges use initials, ambiguity, and discretion every day. Our University should too. The judges on these subcommittees are, currently, enclosed in secrecy, and free to decide two similar cases in two different ways. Publishing the opinions of our University’s subcommittees increases transparency and accountability, and helps everyone to know what to expect from our University’s version of a justice system.
Joseph is a senior studying English.