Imagine a scenario in which you’ve committed a Student Code of Conduct violation. Notwithstanding the punishment that GW may dole out, it’s a long, time-consuming and difficult hearing process. Now, imagine months went by before GW even responded to you about how to move forward with your case. Many students have found themselves in this situation and are becoming increasingly concerned with the University’s inability to follow through with the enforcement of their conduct policies, which students are required to follow.
The Student Rights and Responsibilities Office – which handles non-academic violations of the Student Code of Conduct – is currently short-staffed, and students say their cases aren’t being handled in a timely manner. Administrators have declined to indicate which specific positions are vacant, if the University will fill these positions anytime soon and if any delays have resulted from the short-staffing. Students who have been accused of violating the Student Code of Conduct have said the University was unresponsive to their requests and took months to address cases that should be resolved in a matter of weeks.
With an understaffed office, weeks can go by before GW notifies a student that University authorities are investigating him or her for a conduct code violation.
The office’s current situation and the University’s lack of acknowledgement and response to the problem is unacceptable. With an understaffed office, weeks can go by before GW notifies a student that University authorities are investigating him or her for a conduct code violation. The University needs to revise this system because students are entitled to a smooth hearing process.
In order to ensure that GW notifies students within a reasonable amount of time, administrators should revise the Student Code of Conduct to include specific deadlines that the University must meet. These deadlines should indicate an exact window of time in which the University will notify students that there is an open investigation, when the hearing is expected to take place and when they can expect to hear back about the results of the hearing. This will give students peace of mind and allow them to hold GW accountable for following through with University policies while students go through this difficult process.
GW’s current code indicates a student’s rights throughout the trial process, but it doesn’t specify any window of time in which the case will be resolved. This system can allow months to go by before a student knows the outcome of the hearing.
Having no deadlines is likely what created the delays in processing these student conduct cases in the first place. If there is no specific deadline to which administrators must adhere, then they have no incentive to resolve cases quickly and efficiently.
Other universities already provide set deadlines for these cases. Boston University’s code of conduct states that if a complaint is filed, then the Dean of Students will complete the investigation within 45 days. Georgetown University’s code states that if the university doesn’t notify a student of an open investigation within 30 days of the incident, the student may receive a lesser punishment if they are found guilty.
Without deadlines, the understaffed SRR office cannot be trusted to complete the investigation process in a reasonable amount of time.
GW should follow these conduct code procedures, but also go a step further by outlining specific deadlines to adhere to throughout the code of conduct violation process. The University should explicitly state in its conduct code that a student will be notified of an open investigation within a specific number of days, such as GU’s 30-day policy. Additionally, the code should indicate when a student should expect to be notified that a hearing will take place and when the case will be resolved, like BU’s 45-day policy. Without deadlines, the understaffed SRR office cannot be trusted to complete the investigation process in a reasonable amount of time.
Should the University fail to meet the deadlines they set, the student, like at Georgetown, should be entitled to a lesser punishment. Not only would this be more efficient, but it would be considerate of students who need to know whether to register for classes and pay tuition. It will also give students the power to hold the office accountable when officials threaten disciplinary action and then stop responding to phone calls and emails after a student attempts to schedule a hearing.
The process following a code of conduct violation is extremely taxing for students who have to endure it, and this has been further exacerbated with the office’s current delays and understaffing. SRR employees currently cannot be held responsible when they fail to give a student necessary information in a timely manner because there is no document holding them accountable. Students deserve speedy and fair trials, and GW should revise its code of conduct to ensure that it can guarantee both.
Nate Muramatsu, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
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