Last year I served as a student hearing board member for GW’s Office of Student Judicial Services, and I strongly disagree that the violations and charges should be more open to the University Community (“GW’s secret service,” Oct. 25, p. 4).
The primary reason these files are private is to protect the students involved. SJS makes it clear to students, both victims and the people charged, that any information will not be revealed. By keeping proceedings private, SJS allows accused students to tell whomever they wish, whenever they wish. While it may not be likely that others would find out information other than what was released, if information was released, it is too big of a risk for SJS to take. Secondly, the secrecy policy keeps SJS out of a situation where they are deciding what to release and what not to release.
A secondary reason for keeping all SJS information private is to protect students, faculty and staff who serve on hearing boards. If that information were released in a format like The Hatchet’s “Crime Report,” it would be easy, if someone knew a hearing board member, to try and pump him or her for information they cannot give out. If a board member did release information without permission, he or she would be violating the Code of Student Conduct.
By keeping information private, SJS is not stopping students from understanding the consequences of their actions. In drug and alcohol cases there are charts which list expected sanctions, all of which should be fairly obvious. In other situations, the sanction is generally made to fit the violation. So giving students information on violations and sanctions would be useless because in most incidents, it depends on the specifics of a case. Students should know and understand that by violating the Code of Student Conduct in any manner, they will face some sanction. Whether they know the precise sanction they will receive should be immaterial.
Students should not feel SJS is out to get them or closed off in any way. University Hearing Boards are always made up of several students and only one staff or faculty member. And the purpose of SJS is to educate and help students make better decisions. If students wish to discuss anything with SJS staff members, I am sure they would be more than willing to do so. But they are not going to make violations and sanctions public because they wish to protect the privacy of everyone involved in an incident. SJS can accomplish its educational goals without doing so.
-The writer, a senior, is a former member of the University Hearing Board.