At Cornell, Repressive Reform Proposals Tabled
March 23, 2007
Free SpeechThe current code includes a section on Responsible Speech and Expression, which largely imports the US Supreme Courts [sic] freedom of speech jurisprudence into Cornell policy (note that as a private institution, Cornell is not a state actor bound by the first amendment). The proposed draft largely eliminates this section as unnecessary, replacing it with two sentences indicating a general philosophical commitment to Free Speech at the university.Procedural FormalityGenerally reduced. Instead of hearings there would be “disciplinary conversations” for most offenses. Instead of appeals to a review board, decisions would be reviewable only by a single “conduct review officer” in the Office of Student Conduct. The new code “will require those who find comfort in the current ‘legalities’ [such as the rights to silence and an attorney, and the burden of proof, discussed infra] to find comfort instead in the overall new cast of a disciplinary system whose ultimate goal is to support the educational mission of Cornell University.”Right to an AttorneyCurrently, students accused of misconduct may be advised and represented by any person of their choosing. This can include an attorney, a friend, or the Judicial Codes Counselor. The proposed draft completely eliminates the right to an advocate. The accused student must speak for him or herself, or not at all (but see the right to remain silent, infra.) Accused students will still be permitted an advisor, but only Cornell students, faculty, and staff may serve as advisors. Students who are separately charged with a crime for the same alleged course of conduct will still be permitted their attorneys, but only as advisors, not as advocates.
The Krause Report looks like it’s pretty much a dead letter at this point…. The plan going forward is that having rejected the Krause Report’s major proposals for systemic change, the remaining proposals will be considered in the normal, ponderous committee process. Going through that process, the CJC has chosen not to frame the questions as (for example) “Should we accept or reject the Krause proposal on the sufficiency of evidence,” but rather, “What is our current standard for sufficiency of the evidence, does the current standard work, and if not how should we change it after soliciting input from all affected parties and communities?” In other words, the Krause report will be considered merely as one opinion among many rather than a package to be accepted or rejected. Given the personnel of the committee, I don’t expect to see a whole lot of Krause’s ideas adopted.