As Vice President for Student Affairs, I’m proud to work with many people who serve students in various ways. Our work covers health care needs, support for student programming, and response to a broad array of incidents and crisis. Among the most challenging of the things we do is to investigate and address allegations of violations of the various policies outlined in the Duke Community Standard. The staff of the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) work very hard to ensure fairness and accountability in the work they do and yet, as outlined in the series of articles recently published in the Chronicle, their work is always subject to criticism.
Confidentiality throughout the adjudication process is a fundamental practice of the OSC. This is both our legal obligation and operating principle to ensure students’ privacy. Thus, when asked for reaction or comments about any specific case, the response will always be not to comment. The process by which policies are created or amended and the practices that are followed that lead to judicial outcomes are fully transparent and many stakeholders, including students, faculty and staff participate regularly in all aspects of these process. So, the insinuations reflected by the Chronicle series is both inaccurate and troubling.
I recognize that students who go through the conduct process will rarely find it to be pleasant. Our efforts should never have anyone feel undervalued nor coerced into any outcome. And, if we need to examine any aspect of our approaches to resolving allegations, we will. But, it’s also important that the community understand that students always have the right to demand a hearing before an impartial panel of students, faculty and staff. The OSC staff have no authority ever to impose any findings or sanctions. They may recommend outcomes that, if agreeable to the student, can more quickly resolve a case, but the student always determines whether informal resolution or formal hearing is the preferred path.
I have always supported the Chronicle in its efforts to examine the student experience at Duke and to uncover circumstances and practices that could and should be improved. I also rarely critique Chronicle coverage, despite more than occasional urges to do so. But, in the case of this series, I can’t accept the mischaracterization of dedicated staff and of institutional processes and am compelled to respond.
I welcome further investigation into all the operating practices of the Office of Student Conduct and any Student Affairs agency. But, I hope and trust that future efforts will be far more thorough and far less biased. Unfounded accusations serve no good purpose in our common aim to make Duke the best it can be.
Larry Moneta, Ed.D
Vice President for Student Affairs