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JudComm Regulations Overhauled

By Angeline Wang

In the works since early 2004, a new set of rules and procedures for undergraduate dormitory Judicial Committees was voted on and passed by Dormitory Council two weeks ago. Important additions include a new training requirement for JudComms that wish to hear disciplinary cases and the requirement that all JudComms remain in consultation with MIT administrators. None of the current JudComms have received this training. The seven-page document addresses some of the misconceptions of the powers JudComms have, and helps to clarify their jurisdiction.

Largely the work of Jeff S. Cohen ’06, the 2005-06 DormCon JudComm chair, the document focuses on the disciplinary procedures that JudComms must follow. Nevertheless, Cohen emphasized that he “expects that the majority of the time, JudComm will serve a mediating role, not a disciplinary one.”

As a mediator, a JudComm would make non-binding recommendations to help individuals or groups resolve their disputes. Individual JudComms have the latitude to define their own approaches to mediation, the document states. JudComms have the option of attending mediation training sessions over the Independent Activities Period, Cohen said.

In its disciplinary role, as listed in the rules and procedures, JudComms may impose disciplinary warnings and informal probations when students are in violation of MIT, dormitory, or DormCon rules and regulations. Formal probations, which lead to notations on transcripts, cannot be imposed by JudComm. Other conditions that may be included as a part of a sanction include community service, compensatory damages, fines, or referrals “to seek mental health, educational, or other counseling on or off campus.”

For disciplinary cases, JudComms may hold administrative reviews or full hearings. Administrative reviews would be used when the respondent admits responsibility for an alleged violation, and full hearings are used otherwise. JudComms can also hear appeals.

Cases that JudComm may not hear include those of alleged sexual harassment, alleged acts of violence, criminal activity, or academic dishonesty, as well as some cases of alcohol-related violations. These cases would be heard by the Committee on Discipline or another MIT committee, according to Cohen.

The purpose of establishing a JudComm in a dormitory, which consists of students from that dormitory, is largely to allow self-governance, as long as it is consistent with overall MIT rules and regulations, said Associate Dean Danny Trujillo, who has also played a large role in the re-writing of the JudComm rules and procedures.

“Self-governance allows the community to respond early,” Trujillo said. “There is flexibility for each community. Dormitories can pick and choose” from the powers allowed by the rules and procedures based on what is appropriate for their community.

The new rules and procedures will be made available online soon, Cohen said.

In creating the new rules and procedures, DormCon received constant feedback from many different groups, Trujillo said, most recently the MIT senior legal counsel office for input and advice. Committee on Discipline Chair Margery Resnick and Dean of Student Life Larry G. Benedict also provided input.

According to Cohen, the overhaul of the JudComm rules and procedures came about after Steve Tyrell, the then-discipline dean, saw that there were problems with the system in January 2004

“The biggest lack of oversight was that JudComms weren’t required to communicate with MIT administrators before hearing cases,” Cohen said. Members of JudComms “weren’t being trained by MIT administrators, and there was no assurance that MIT policies and procedures were being followed.”

“As I saw it, there was no uniformity or standardization across the system,” Benedict said. “Each one used difference procedures and handled different kinds of cases. In some cases, students were trained and in others they weren’t. The new rules address these issues and when fully implemented should strengthen the system.”

In the past, many revisions of the rules have been made; the one currently on the DormCon Web site includes formal probations, notations on transcripts, and loss of housing privileges among the sanctions that JudComms could impose. This is the version of the rules that the Special Committee to Review the Discipline System viewed when they released their report in October 2005, according to Chair Lorna Gibson.

“Making notes on transcripts is beyond what students should be able to do,” Gibson said, and that information was included in the report released by the Special Committee.

According to Cohen, that part of the online document is no longer in force and was probably never implemented.

No current JudComms have been trained as required by the new rules and procedures according to Cohen, so none should be hearing disciplinary cases.

“We intended training to be arranged on a per-dorm basis,” Cohen said. “Two dorms may have slightly different rules regarding their JudComms or two different communities may emphasize different roles for their JudComms. It would be good to customize training for those reasons and others.”

Training sessions will probably be held several times during the year, arranged between the dormitory and the to-be-elected discipline dean, Cohen said.

Harvey C. Jones ’06, the 2005-06 DormCon president, sees one thing that still needs to be addressed. He believes that the rules should require more accountability for JudComm chairs and compilation of statistics of the types of complaints and appeals.