Commentary: OSCCR rules flawed, need tweaking

The moment I walked into the hearing room, I knew I was in trouble. I sat down across the table from a board member whom I not only knew personally, but also did not get along with. I was appalled that there was no screening process in place to recuse board members who have previous relationships with the accused. In a court of law, the defense has the right to screen possible jurors to ensure that the accused are judged by a group of fair-minded, unbiased peers. This right is clearly not afforded to students accused of violating the Code of Conduct and that should be changed.

At a later point in the hearing, my fellow accused and I were amazed. Our appointed advisor tried to offer his advice concerning a particular line of questioning only to be scolded by the OSCCR official monitoring the hearing. He said advisors were only allowed to offer advice before the hearing and during restroom breaks. Doesn’t that seem strange?

Basically, if the idea is that the code allows the accused party to retain an advisor, why isn’t the advisor allowed to do anything? The accused should be able to utilize his or her advisor’s services to the fullest extent possible. If that means pausing mid-hearing for important advice, it must be allowed. And if it means allowing the advisor to read a list of prepared questions to witnesses testifying against the accused, then it also must be allowed.

After our hearing, my fellow accused and I felt that we had made our case very well. In order to be found not guilty in a court of law, an opinion of reasonable doubt must exist in the jury (usually 5 to 10 percent of the jurors) that the accused did not commit the alleged offense. In fact, we were right: Not only had we convinced one board member (creating a 20 percent doubt), but two (creating a 40 percent doubt). Yet, the three board members who thought us responsible were enough to render that decision officially. This practice is preposterous. That I was found responsible, suspended for a semester and robbed of over $40,000 in scholarships and financial aid because the board thought we had more likely than not violated the code boggles my mind to this day.

In order to find someone responsible for committing a Level I Grevious Violation of the Code of Conduct, all five board members should need to agree unanimously that the accused party is responsible. Only for a Level II or Level III Violation could I possibly see allowing a four-fifths majority to render a decision of responsible. This is an extremely important change and it must be given serious attention.

I encountered my last major problem when I received the decision letter outlining my sanctions. The OSCCR official told me the board felt that, while my actions were technically a violation of the code that was specifically spelled out in the Student Handbook, I didn’t deserve to be suspended.

Unfortunately, the code states anyone found responsible for this particular violation is to receive a sanction of “no less than” suspension, so I got suspended. This is another seriously flawed practice. The board was unable to use its judgment to hand down a sanction that was fitting of the offense because the code forbid it. I think this needs to change. The assignment of sanctions must be carried out on a “no more than” basis.

I’m not bitter. I’m just concerned. If you take a step back, the OSCCR process seems to be clearly set up in favor of the accuser rather than equally fair for both parties. Am I right, OSCCR? Tell us what percentage of students accused of a violation are actually found not responsible. I’m sure the students would love to know. I would.

– George Gottschalk IV is a middler economics major.

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