Students Join Hearing PanelsBy Shawdee Eshghi
Twenty students recently joined the Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs' conflict resolution process through the UESA Student Dean Hearing Panels.
The panels themselves are not a new addition to the the conflict resolution process, but student inclusion is. Students were added to the pool of deans and other administrators from which panel members are chosen.
Most students were nominated by the Interfraternity Council, the Undergraduate Association, and the Graduate Student Council, although several were also selected by the UESA to be dean's representatives.
Any kind of complaint can be directed to the panels, including questions of academic integrity, harassment, behavior in any student activity, and criminal charges.
Students added for many reasons
Students were added to the panels because the Dean's Office was under pressure from students who wanted to see their peers playing a larger role in the disciplinary process at the Institute, said UESA Program Administrator Betty H. Sultan.
The decision to involve students in the panels was based largely on administrators' positive experience with student involvement on the Committee on Discipline, said Associate UESADean Andrew M. Eisenmann '75, one of the chief proponents of the change.
"It made sense to us that students would have perspectives into these kinds of problems that others might not have," Eisenmann said.
Another reason for the decision to include students was to take some of the stress off the office of Residence and Campus Activities, which was dealing with the majority of the disciplinary problems at MIT, Sultan said. "The hope is that now all sides will work together, with COD and the panels equally sharing the burden."
Conflicts traverse tangled web
The hearing panels are just one link in a complicated web of the conflict resolution process on campus.
Students with any sort of conflict or complaint are urged to go to their housemaster or floor tutor first. If this track does not lead to a solution, the conflict goes to RCA, which then routes the conflict to Mediation at MIT, the COD, Administrative Review, or the hearing panels, depending on the specific case.
Any decision concerning suspension, expulsion or the revocation or withholding of a degree may be appealed directly to the president.
If a conflict is in fact routed to the hearing panels, two students are selected at random from the pool to sit on the panel. Students are asked to step down if they have any prior knowledge of the conflict.
The hearing that follows is conducted with a very strict agenda; a decision must be reached within five working days. The new panel has not yet heard any cases.
Students trained extensively
The students selected to take part in the panels underwent an intensive two-day training program during IAP.
Students learned about several major themes, including the history of the system, basic principles and rights, details of an actual hearing and the types of issues involved. One of the most important activities was a mock hearing, where the students became acquainted with the details of a hearing, Eisenmann said.
The training also touched upon sensitive issues such as race and gender. "One of the most important things they tried to emphasize in the training was sensitivity to the issues," said UESARepresentative Jorge F. Rodriguez '98.
"The training was really important because I think it is crucial for people on such panels to be impartial and fair," said Angela Neale '97, another representative.