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Plan for New Judicial System to Offer Students Greater Say

By Christopher Falling
Staff Reporter

A working group headed by Robert M. Randolph, senior associate dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, has released a preliminary draft report that culminates six months of work to lay down the foundation for a new judicial committee.

The new committee will run in parallel to the existing Committee on Discipline, Randolph said. This is the first attempt to establish a campus-wide judicial board in at least 15 years, he added.

The working group was formed in response to student demand to create a more representative board for hearing formal complaints, Randolph said.

The decision to make changes in the existing system has come about in no small part because of the "large number of complaints the dean office was receiving and the office's option that they could do a better job," Randolph said.

Complaints are currently brought before either the COD or the Office of Residence and Campus Activities, Randolph said. COD has choice over what cases it decides to hear. But cases not heard by the COD end up being heard by RCA without any input from students or other MIT offices such as the UESA, he said.

The new board will improve on the existing RCA model by having a broader base of representation, including students and other deans not associated with the RCA, Randolph said. "This is an attempt to open up the judicial process to make it more of a student-friendly process."

"The new Judicial Board will replace RCA's authority to hear formal complaints," said Betty H. Sultan, staff assistant for the UESA. Sultan, who is also the COD administrative officer, contributed to the content of the report.

Meetings to seek student input

Most generally, the report sheds light on the process by which complaints will be addressed, a process that before now has often had "the potential of being abused or misunderstood by students who felt that they were not being heard," Randolph said. Among other changes, the draft modifies existing due process.

Open meetings to discuss the new plan will be held tomorrow at 3 p.m. and on Jan. 26 at 2 p.m.in the large dining room of Building W11, Randolph said.

The timetable for the implementation of the draft report depends on the amount and kind of student response, as well on resolution of technical issues such as confidentiality, Randolph said.

"However, I would like to see it in place as soon as possible," Randolph said. There is an outside chance that the new board could be in place by next fall, he said.

Informal resolution of complaints is still encouraged through sending electronic mail to mediation@mit.edu and with participation of a third party.

Under the new system, complainants may continue to opt for administrative agreement through a dean, who will keep a record of the complaint, the report said.