by Micah Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief
Right now, according to Dean of Students Paul Perrine, 99% of student discipline cases go through the administrative hearing process, a procedure that is outlined in just a couple of lines in the student handbook. The Conduct Board, on the other hand, is explained and outlined on multiple pages of the student handbook, but it has not existed since 2010.
However, Perrine and Assistant Director of Residence Life Margot Jebb have been rewriting the process for how cases reach the Conduct Board, and hope to have the Board back in place by the next academic year.
In the past the Conduct Board heard cases that were appealed by the students involved. Next year, however, the purpose of the Conduct Board, according to Perrine, will shift toward hearing any case that specifically involves issues and incidents of community respect.
“Instead of going through the administrative process, a case involving community impact, like damage or disrespect, would be heard by a judicial board,” Perrine said. “The type of cases we would envision coming to the Board aren’t as benign as one person said you did it and you said you didn’t.”
Lately Perrine has been hearing a lot of students talk about community respect issues on campus. At a recent party held in Sutton, a firework was set off on the dance floor, forcing the fire marshal to come to campus, and the party to come to an early end. This incident prompted a discussion about parties and party contracts during the Student Caucus meeting April 30.
“At parties the community is really disrespectful,” senior Nicole Testa said during Caucus. “They break our own property.”
The frequency of occurrences like this are particularly concerning for Perrine.
“There’s vandalism, trashing bathrooms, lots of those kinds of things,” Perrine said. “We’re trying to increase the accountability to each other.”
The Conduct Board will be composed of eight students, elected by the student body for two-year terms, and two faculty or staff members, appointed by the Dean of Students. This disciplinary process would include a student voice, which is missing in the administrative hearing process.
“It makes sense that at Warren Wilson, where students do and run lots of things, this is something students could have an input in,” Perrine said. “A lot of crews work really hard at what they do and they ought to have some say when that work is not respected.”
Having this discussion among peers would hopefully decrease the occurrence of these community disrespect incidents, Perrine hopes. The Conduct Board was in place when Cathy Kramer was Dean of Students from 2005-2010, and she noticed that students liked the model.
“Students sometimes requested that their case be heard by their peers as they sometimes understood the dynamics of a situation in a more personal way,” Kramer said. “The board was usually clear about holding others responsible for inappropriate behavior.”
The members of the Board will be chosen at the beginning of the next academic year, and will be guided by a Conduct Coordinator, who will choose what cases the Board hears, and will help bring about consistency to the sanctions of the Board. Once the students are elected to the Board, they will go through a series of trainings because, according to Kramer, “it’s sometimes challenging to be in the position of judging peers.” In some cases, if the student has a conflict of interest (if they are friends with the student involved in the case, for example) they will have to opt out of hearing the case.
The Conduct Board will likely only hear a handful of cases every year, but having this process in place is a step in the right direction in terms of cutting down on incidents that negatively impact the community as a whole.
“Most students know you shouldn’t trash a bathroom, but it reinforces that message,” Perrine said. “It will increase the awareness among students.”