SU Senate approves changes to student judicial code

| News Editor

Arts and Sciences Senator Matt Re votes in favor of proposed changes to the judicial code at Wednesday night’s Student Union Senate meeting. The changes, which include a provision dissalowing mediation in sexual assault cases, passed 19-0-1.Cole Bishop | Student Life

Arts and Sciences Senator Matt Re votes in favor of proposed changes to the judicial code at Wednesday night’s Student Union Senate meeting. The changes, which include a provision dissalowing mediation in sexual assault cases, passed 19-0-1.

Student Union Senate approved all proposed changes to Washington University’s student judicial code at its weekly meeting Wednesday.

These include a change to how the University can handle cases of sexual harassment and assault that Director of Judicial Programs Tamara King says is regressive. The University needed to modify its code to comply with changes to Title IX that were distributed to all national educational institutions earlier this month.

In the past, the University allowed sexual assault victims to decide how they wanted to deal with their situations, whether to pursue judicial action or sit down for mediation. Under the new code, the University will no longer be allowed to permit mediation in these cases.

“Our system was victim driven. The OCR [Office for Civil Rights] is saying, ‘while it’s victim-driven, here are all the things you have to do and we don’t really care what the victim says.’ So for us, philosophically, we’re taking a step back,” King said.

Officials at the University worry that the government’s imposed changes may keep students from seeking help.

“Our fear is that people don’t come forward and we hear less. In my opinion that’s worse. We’re trying to do all these things—we’ve created Kim Webb’s position [sexual assault coordinator] to bring the issue to the surface, and I’m afraid that this legislation may drive some of it underground,” King said.

Despite ideological differences, the University must adapt to the changes to continue receiving federal funding. University officials are currently working to adapt the current judicial system to meet the new regulations.

“We’re not just going to make a decision, we’re going to sit down and talk about, figure out which practices to take and really try to do the right thing following the spirit of the law,” King said. “I think you do a disservice if you don’t sit down and really think about this and process it. That’s why I feel bad for people who are in the middle of a hearing, where some of these things are going to impact that—that’s a horrible scenario to be in.”

Beyond the adapted provisions for sexual assault, the student judicial code is also being modified to limit the University’s ability to suspend students for off-campus criminal charges.

According to the changes in the code, crimes committed off-campus will no longer be considered a basis for suspension unless the crime suggests a potential, continued threat to members of the campus community.

Other changes modified the code to reflect the way in which judicial services already operates.

One alteration clarified that student groups are to be held to the same provisions as individual students. Another alteration specified that the individual who may accompany students at disciplinary hearings may not examine parties or witnesses—the University’s way of trying to ensure that cases do not become centered on a student’s ability to afford a good lawyer.

The graduate and professional council already approved the changes, and the faculty senate council will make the final decision on whether to pass the amended code soon.

Changes are made to the student judicial code every three years. According to King, the last major adjustment to the code was the restriction on hookah six years ago.

Wednesday’s changes were approved in a 19-0-1 vote.