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Random, MacGregor to Form JudComms

By Yi Zhou

Soon more students will join Ian C. Smith ’07, who is currently the chair and only member, in the Dormitory Council’s Judicial Committee. Random Hall and MacGregor House are close to completing the process for establishing a JudComm based on new rules and regulations that were voted on and passed by DormCon in May.

Bexley House, which has not participated in DormCon proceedings in the past few years, has declined to create a JudComm, and Simmons Hall is debating whether the newly formed committee should hear cases pertaining only to constitutional issues, said Veronica Mendoza ’96, director of the Office of Student Mediation and Community Standards. According to Smith, other dormitories have expressed only interest in setting up a disciplinary JudComm. He said that he believes these dormitories are waiting to see the outcome of Random and MacGregor’s JudComms.

Each dormitory that wishes to establish a JudComm that hears disciplinary cases must construct an individual set of bylaws, allowing each dormitory to tailor the judicial process to their individual culture. These dormitory bylaws will accompany the seven-page document of rules and regulations governing all dormitory JudComms. New JudComm members will be required to attend a training program developed by Smith and the OSMCS, which will cover primarily procedural information about JudComm code.

Random Hall’s bylaws has already been approved by Smith. The dormitory is currently waiting on the passage of these amendments to its house constitution, which requires the consent of more than half its residents. MacGregor House’s bylaws, passed by residents immediately after the new JudComm procedures were distributed in May, are pending approval by Smith and OSMCS, according to MacGregor President Adam V. Donovan ’07.

Smith anticipates that the review of MacGregor’s bylaws will take approximately two weeks and that the training program will be administered to the two dormitories’ JudComm members by the end of November.

The purpose of establishing a dormitory JudComm, 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 Daniel Trujillo in May when the new rules were released. Trujillo played a large role in the re-writing of the JudComm rules and procedures.

“In instances where there are problems, students will have the choice between appealing to the administration or to JudComm, which is comprised of fellow students who understand community standards,” Smith said.

The JudComm rules and procedures focuses on the disciplinary procedures that JudComms must follow, but dormitory JudComms will also largely serve a mediating role. The new rules and procedures give dormitory JudComms the power to impose disciplinary warnings and informal probations, but determining whether that power will be given to an individual dormitory JudComm will depend on the residents.

Mendoza said that her expectation is that dormitories are “going to be very different in determining how much they limit themselves. It’s the reason why the [DormCon JudComm] bylaws give enough leeway.”

Some dormitories may currently have JudComms, but “to the best of my knowledge, any existing JudComms do not fulfill any judicial purposes or even mediation,” Smith said. He pointed out that the sole function of Burton Conner’s JudComm is to run elections.

Random’s bylaws closely follow the JudComm code, except in allowing JudComm members to recommend students to counseling as one of its decisions. Residents were not sure if “JudComm should be making a judgment on the person instead of the action” leading to the complaint, said Random Hall President Iolanthe K. Chronis ’08.

In the works since early 2004, the new rules and procedures released by DormCon in May addresses some of the misconceptions of the powers JudComms have and helps to clarify their jurisdiction. In the past, many revisions of the rules have been made. The previous incarnation included 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 Oct. 2005, according to the committee’s chair, Associate Provost Lorna Gibson.

“Making notes on transcripts is beyond what students should be able to do,” Gibson said in May, and that information was included in the report released by the special committee. According to 2005-06 DormCon JudComm Chair Jeff S. Cohen ’06, that part of the document was probably never implemented.

According to Mendoza, dormitory JudComms must review all cases with her, and dormitory housemasters must be notified of JudComm decisions.

Because many dormitories have lacked a functioning JudComm for years, “nobody has any institutional memory on how it actually works,” Mendoza said. “I can understand that there are some misgivings because nobody understands it in practice.” Mendoza held an open forum at East Campus a few weeks ago to answer questions regarding JudComms.

“DormCon JudComm and the Office of Student Mediation and Community Standards both need the experience of putting Random and MacGregor through the process,” Smith said. Mendoza added, “My intent is to use Random as the pilot Judcomm because we’re just starting it up again, and there are going to be some bugs that need to be worked out.”

Disciplinary cases under the jurisdiction of JudComm fall into three categories: mediation, administrative review, and full hearing, according to the JudComm rules and procudures. 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.