Students are getting more involved in University conduct policy after a recent push led by Duke Student Government.
DSG and the administration created two student representative seats on the committee responsible for approving undergraduate conduct policies and one student representative seat on the Undergraduate Conduct Board’s appellate board, which reviews appeals from students or student groups who are not satisfied with an Undergraduate Conduct Board decision. Both groups previously had no student representatives.
DSG President Mike Lefevre, a senior, said these changes were motivated by a noticeable disconnect between administrative decisions and student input. During the summer, Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek and Stephen Bryan, associate dean of students and director of the Office of Student Conduct, said members of the Office of Student Conduct Student Advisory Group unanimously approved the new alcohol policy of six beers per person during Tailgate, Lefevre said.
“[Advisory group members] said ‘I didn’t vote on anything,’” Lefevre said. “That raised some red flags.”
Lefevre and junior Pete Schork, DSG executive vice president, designed the revisions to the approval committee and the appellate board this summer, which were approved last week by Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta and Dean and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Steve Nowicki, respectively.
“Most students don’t think about undergraduate conduct until they go through it,” Lefevre said. “That process can be the difference between getting expelled and staying at Duke.”
The student representative on the appellate board will likely be a member of the UCB or one of its co-chairs, and students on the approval committee will be selected through a DSG appointment process, Lefevre said.
The approval committee was also rescheduled from meeting only once in the summer to meeting twice during the academic year, which should lead to “real discourse” since students will be involved, Lefevre said.
The idea of adding students to the undergraduate conduct process is not a new one—former 2006-2007 DSG president Elliott Wolf, Trinity ’08, focused on restructuring the way student conduct decisions at Duke are made and proposed sweeping overhauls of the student conduct process, but was unsuccessful, Lefevre said.
“[Wolf] was told that the time [immediately after the lacrosse scandal] was wrong,” Lefevre said. “That rationale continued.... It’s about time we start turning over those pages again.”
Moneta said he did not think student voices have been excluded from University decision-making, citing the Honor Council’s increased role, the creation of the Greek Judicial Council and the Judicial Affairs Student Advisory Group. He said it was the first time he had been asked if students could participate in the review of judicial policies, adding that timing may have played a large role in that.
“I don’t see this move as anything dramatic,” Moneta said. “[It’s] just an ongoing effort to expand student participation in various consultative processes.”
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Schork, however, said he believes the Judicial Affairs Student Advisory Group, created in 2008 and now called the Office of Student Conduct Advisory Group, devolved into simply a discussion group.
“There was a void, and the void was not filled,” Schork said. “It’s a pretty great victory to have students in the room [when administrators make conduct-related decisions.]”
Lefevre said the small changes made this year were easily agreed to by the administration and will have “huge implications.”
“We made a well-reasoned case, and the administration agreed. That’s the way business should be done,” he said in an e-mail. “This wasn’t the high-visibility battle we... expected.”