Under new procedures announced by Professor Robert P. Redwine at the Sept. 18 faculty meeting, complainants may now appeal decisions of the Committee on Discipline (COD) in sexual-assault cases. The COD is a standing committee of the faculty charged with “investigating complaints against students’ academic [and non-academic] misconduct.”
The changes were brought forward by a committee assembled to “bring [the procedures of the COD] in line with current best practices and legal requirements,” according to a document provided by Redwine, who was chair of the committee and former chair of the COD. The most significant changes are procedural and will affect the way the COD reviews cases of sexual assault and other gender-related misconduct.
Under the new procedures, available on the COD’s homepage, both complainants and respondents will have the right to appeal COD outcomes to the chancellor in all gender-related cases. In the past, only respondents could appeal to the chancellor, with appeals restricted to decisions of revoking a diploma, suspending a student or expelling a student.
The new procedures also stipulate that cases of “gender-based misconduct” will be dealt with only with a full hearing through the COD; such cases will be investigated at once, without regard to pending criminal investigations, according to Redwine.
While the gender-related changes are mandated under the Title IX amendment and similar legislation, the committee was not “being forced to do this against [its] will,” Redwine said. “In general, we think the changes are a good idea,” he said, emphasizing that the COD has always taken cases of gender-based misconduct seriously and that such cases were generally heard by a full hearing anyway.
Redwine said in an interview with The Tech that the purpose of the COD has not been affected by the recent changes. The committee has the power to write letters on a student’s file, put a student on probation, suspend students, expel students and revoke degrees. The committee is compromised of members of the MIT faculty, undergraduate student body and graduate student body.
Another procedural change is that the COD will no longer hear oral argument from character witnesses, but will accept written testimony instead. Redwine said that this change will help to make the process run more smoothly, noting that past questionings of character witnesses often became “chaotic.”
While the committee’s updated procedures attempt to better emphasize the relationship between the COD and the Office of Student Citizenship (OSC), they will not affect it substantially, according to Redwine. The COD has always worked closely with the OSC, Redwine said, and many cases that could potentially be brought before the COD are resolved by the OSC without the need for a hearing.
Professor Redwine said that most of the changes to the procedures were “housekeeping” measures aimed at “bringing the language up to date.”