As a department, GW’s Student Judicial Services has been plagued by an unfavorable reputation for years. This may not be surprising considering it is the body that GW students must face after breaking a University policy, but the disciplinary role SJS serves on campus is not the sole cause for the animosity it receives.
It is promising that Assistant Dean of Students and head of SJS Tara Pereira wants to make changes to her department, especially with the help of student feedback. She has taken the first step by outlining vague goals for changing the reputation of SJS among students. We appreciate that she is at least aware of SJS’s reputation and flaws and that she is attempting to make improvements.
A major improvement students need to see from SJS is the way the body handles violations. Currently, there is an imbalance between the repercussions students can expect from a violation and the case-by-case treatment they actually encounter. While it is not necessarily a flaw of the process to consider cases individually, students need to know what they should expect for a violation. For example, if a student is facing an SJS hearing for a second EMeRG offense, he or she should know the standard punishment for breaking University policy. If SJS wavers on the consistency of the disciplinary action for regular offenses, this will inevitably mar the credibility of the body. SJS needs to strike a better balance in how it processes student violations by setting an algorithm for punishment. It is understandable that SJS would acknowledge other factors in individual cases, such as a student’s grades or if he or she has a history of other violations, but these reasons for concession need to be better publicized. This way, a student with a violation can stand before SJS with the knowledge of the consequences he or she will likely face, and what other factors the members of SJS will take into consideration.
Students may be willing to voice additional concerns about SJS, but we worry that the townhall method will not yield the results required to make substantial changes. In similar situations, other GW departments utilize townhalls to receive feedback, but the sensitive nature of SJS violations may prevent students from openly discussing their experiences with the department. Pereira should act accordingly and implement another way for students to provide the necessary feedback. An online submission form should prove accessible and draw more responses from students.
SJS may be flawed, but in order to change, it needs student input. This department is very much responsible for a student’s academic and future careers, so all students should take the time to attend the townhall meetings and voice their concerns.
We hope to see a more tangible outline of changes from SJS in the future, so the department can deal with students in a more consistent and transparent manner. The negative view of SJS will change if the department demystifies the way it handles violations and if Pereira is receptive to student concerns.
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