Oct. 4, 2007
Forum addresses revised Campus Code of Conduct, including provisions for off-campus behavior
Cornell's Campus Code of Conduct has received an extensive revision, addressing many of the concerns the campus community expressed in comments and public forums over the past year.
About 20 people, most of them students, attended an Oct. 2 public forum in the Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room, intended by the Codes and Judicial Committee (CJC) of the University Assembly (UA) to solicit more feedback and answer questions about the revised code.
The CJC is accepting further comments from the community until Oct. 15 on its Web site, at http://assembly.cornell.edu/CJCComments/2007Fall. The committee will submit a report to the UA in early November; a final report will go to President David Skorton in December. A revised code could be adopted in 2008.
The code defines appropriate behavior and disciplinary actions required when rules are broken. Former Judicial Administrator Barbara Krause had proposed sweeping changes to the code and the judicial system in an April 2006 report. Her recommendations included making what the CJC described as the needlessly complex document easier to read, a task the CJC has now completed.
Many people disagreed last year with some of Krause's other recommendations -- including shifting responsibility for the independent judicial process and the Office of the Judicial Administrator (JA) to the university's central administration. The revised code keeps the process and the JA's office independent and retains and clarifies procedural protections, such as right to counsel.
Most of the 11 CJC members -- students, faculty and staff -- answered questions from the audience about aspects of the revised code, including provisions for off-campus jurisdiction.
"The way the old code worked with off-campus jurisdiction, there was a presidential override for situations regarding 'grave misconduct,'" said law professor Kevin Clermont, who prepared the bulk of the revised code. "It was rarely invoked. One of the things the president pointed out [in his May 15 letter to the UA] was maybe we should be a little more concerned [about] off-campus misconduct." Examples Clermont cited were stalking in Collegetown and an incident just off campus in which six fraternity members allegedly assaulted a student from another fraternity.
"As an undergrad, this is one of my main concerns, with issues such as stalking that are affecting the safety of the Cornell community," said CJC member Rachel Dorfman-Tandlich '08.
The language regarding off-campus cases has been modified from "grave misconduct" to "serious misconduct" that threatens Cornell's educational mission or the health and safety of community members. Such cases could be considered by the JA (with presidential approval) under the revised code.
"The word 'grave' was too serious … 'serious misconduct' is a still substantial term," said Cornell University Police Capt. Kathy Zoner.
Ashley Miller, a Cornell law student who teaches a University, Society and the Law course in the College of Arts and Sciences, asked whether hate speech occurring off campus would be considered "serious misconduct" under the revised code, thus warranting the JA's attention.
Cornell Judicial Administrator Mary Beth Grant said that while hate speech may be hurtful and offensive, speech is not covered by the code. But, she later added, "Bias-related misconduct off campus might well be covered by the new provision, case by case."
Changes to make the code more user-friendly include the consolidation of the judicial process into one section and folding a previous section on responsible speech into the beginning section on general principles and policies, said CJC Chair Kathleen E. Rourke, a Law School staff member.
"One of the things we want to stress is this is a community document," she said. "We worked very hard to make sure it represents the community, and we tried to make it a living, breathing document that enhances the teaching environment of the university."
For more information, including the complete revised code and a summary of revisions, see http://assembly.cornell.edu/CJC/Home.