College Publishes Judicial Outcomes

By Kelsey Collins

Old Chapel released a comprehensive report of student policy violations via a new webpage on the College’s site unveiled Monday, Nov. 4. The page details incidents and consequences of student conduct violations and disciplinary actions since 2007, and its release marks a new commitment to transparency in the College’s judicial affairs process.

While the administration has released limited information surrounding judicial affairs in the past, the new reporting system entails a much more transparent and detailed annual report available to all students, faculty and staff on the full range of student conduct violations and subsequent disciplinary actions.

Last year’s report included 447 reported policy violations that resulted in some form of official sanctions during the 2012-2013 academic year. Of these violations, 105 were alcohol citations, and 27 constituted cheating, plagiarizing or some other form of academic dishonesty. The report also included five incidents of sexual misconduct, three of which were met with sanctions by the Sexual Misconduct Review Panel.

Compared with national statistics of incidents of sexual assault on college campus, the number of incidents that received sanctions at the College last year is relatively low.

“[National] statistics indicate that one in 36 college women are sexually assaulted within any seven month period,” Ian Thomas ’13.5, student co-chair of the Academic Judicial Board, said. “Applying that math to Middlebury, that works out to be approximately 34 sexual assaults per one academic year. Looking at last year’s numbers, there were five reported instances of sexual misconduct. I do believe that sexual misconduct is under-reported on our campus, and everything must be done to counteract that. If survivors see that their school has an effective judicial process for them, then perhaps they would be more likely to report what happened.”

Dean of the College Shirley Collado said in an all-school email on Nov. 4 that it is disheartening to not live up to community expectations.

“Only by being honest with ourselves about where we struggle, as individuals and as a community, can we chart an effective course for progress,” she said.

The report found that alcohol played a key role in the majority of policy violations resulting in sanctions. While many alcohol citations are met with a warning, alcohol played a key role in more severe cases of policy violations and discipline: 67 percent of violations that resulted in expulsion involved alcohol.

“I don’t think it would surprise anybody in the country familiar with alcohol use on college campuses to find that policy violations are often, though not always, tied to alcohol use,” said Katy Smith Abbott, dean of students and co-chair of the Task Force on Alcohol and Social Life. “But I think the thing that’s hard about alcohol, to be honest, and one of the things that’s so discouraging, is that when you are working with students who have violated college policy at a level such that they are looking at a CJB [Community Judicial Board] hearing, or are staring down the possibility of official college discipline, or suspension, or expulsion — most of the time, had the student been sober, they never would have acted in such a way that would leave them facing that kind of disciplinary action.”

Smith added that the students who receive such disciplinary action rarely think that they would have been the ones to be in their positions.

“They think they have control over their drinking, but they actually don’t always have the ability to determine what their actions are or control their impulses,” she said. “And that’s part of what is difficult to address about this problem.”

Associate Dean for Judicial Affairs and Student Life Karen Guttentag said that the increased transparency was meant to educate students on all parts of the judicial affairs system.

“Our goal is not only to educate the community about conduct outcomes, but about the disciplinary system itself,” she said. “It’s important for students to understand the guiding philosophy we bring to conduct concerns, the various systems we have that address them and the range of outcomes that can result.”

Thomas said that the release of the data is an important step forward.

“I am very pleased to see these reports,” he said. “The previous method of posting judicial outcomes left much to be desired. These reports are an important part of the judicial process’s transparency, and they reinforce the Judicial Board’s accountability to the community.”

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