What’s the deal with… Colonial Caucus?

If students thought going away to college was their best bet of getting out of jury duty, think again. GW’s Colonial Caucus wants to make them fulfill the often-dreaded civic responsibility.

All students living in University residence halls are subject to serve on the mock-jury panel at least once during their time at GW. The program, created in 2001, is designed to help students understand how their actions impact the larger GW community.

Previously a mandatory exercise for freshmen only, this year upperclassmen can also be summoned to appear at a caucus, Director of Housing Life James Kohl said.

Colonial Caucus is held on Fridays and consists of a 6- to 12-member panel of students that collectively decides on the appropriate punishment for a low-level policy violation committed by one of their peers, according to the GW Housing Program Web site. The student on “trial” is given the opportunity to recant his or her version of the incident before the caucus delivers its sentence.

Oftentimes panel members decide that the experience of appearing before the caucus is educational enough to spare them from additional punishment, Kohl said.

“We have found that the most influential people in students’ lives tend to be other students,” Kohl said. “This program allows residents to discuss expectations and hold other residents accountable to those expectations.”

While some students see the benefits of being a Colonial Caucus member, others often fail to answer their summonses. But unlike the real thing, you won’t be prosecuted if you skip out on Colonial Caucus.

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