Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed September 2, 1997
Contact: Mark Nickel

Brown University revises its non-academic disciplinary procedures

The Office of Student Life has announced changes to the non-academic disciplinary code. Growing out of recommendations made last spring by an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Misconduct, the changes provide students and administrators with additional options for resolving conflicts and address a number of procedural concerns identified by the committee.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Office of Student Life at Brown University has announced revisions to the University's non-academic disciplinary code that will provide students and administrators with additional options for resolving conflicts. The revisions address a number of campus concerns about the conduct of formal disciplinary hearings, including breaches of confidentiality by persons who serve in positions of responsibility and trust.

Many of the disciplinary code revisions respond to the findings by an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Misconduct last spring that Brown's disciplinary system is too often viewed as adversarial or quasi-legal. A new structured negotiation provision, for example, will allow students to seek resolution of conflicts before a complaint involves a hearing before the dean or the University Disciplinary Council (UDC). A number of procedural changes and changes to the roles of various officers are designed to make the process less adversarial and more in keeping with the educational mission of the University.

"The University's goal was to address significant campus concerns about non-academic disciplinary procedures, including issues surrounding the resolution of sexual misconduct charges," said Robin Rose, dean of Student Life. "The recommendations made last April by the ad hoc committee, chaired by Professor Sheila Blumstein, were developed through a process that sought contributions from the entire campus community. These revisions, based on those recommendations and on discussions with the president and the senior administration, are responsive to student and University concerns and will dramatically improve our non-academic disciplinary process."

The changes announced today were approved by the Corporation Committee on Legal Affairs, which has authority for amending non-academic disciplinary procedures on behalf of the Corporation of Brown University, Brown's governing body. A summary of changes follows.

Editors: A copy of the revised procedures is available by fax from the News Bureau.

Structured negotiation

Structured negotiation is a preliminary resolution procedure designed to determine whether parties in a dispute can reach a fair, equitable and mutually acceptable outcome of a complaint through discussions and review with a University official. The structured negotiation option is available when three conditions are met: 1) the dean of Student Life determines that it is an appropriate mechanism for resolution in the case; 2) both parties are willing to participate; and 3) the respondent has no prior disciplinary record.

The structured negotiation option becomes available when the Office of Student Life receives a complaint. The student filing the complaint may be required to discuss the option with a designated staff member before the complaint is processed through the disciplinary system. Although a complaint will not be reviewed or investigated while a structured negotiation is in progress, the option is not intended to cause significant delay in the disposition of a case. Either party may opt out of the structured negotiation at any time, and the complaint will then move forward through the disciplinary system. Any resolution reached through structured negotiation must be acceptable to both parties and to the University.

The case administrator

A case administrator, assigned by the dean of Student Life, investigates written complaints of violations of the standards of student conduct that are not minor in nature. The case administrator presents a written report to the dean of Student Life, and the dean of Student Life then determines whether or not the matter should be referred for a disciplinary hearing (either a dean's hearing or a hearing before the UDC). The report is forwarded as appropriate.

A case administrator also reviews all reports of alleged violations, consults with appropriate officers (including the dean of Student Life), and assigns minor cases to dean's hearings.

Campus Incident Complaint Form

Persons reporting violations of standards of student conduct will use a revised Campus Incident Complaint Form, which details student rights and responsibilities. Students must check which resolution option (dean's hearing, UDC hearing, structured negotiation) they are requesting and must initial and date their choice. Any University office that takes any action on the form must initial and date the action taken. The form will also ask students whether they have reported the incident to the police, whether they would like assistance or support in doing so, and whether they would like a dean to contact their parents and advise them of the situation.

UDC members and panels

Students from each school (undergraduate College, Graduate School, School of Medicine) are selected for service on the UDC by the appropriate dean, using a list of nominees submitted by the duly elected student government. The list of nominees will not exceed twice the number of available positions, and each nominee must have two references. If the nominees are not acceptable, the dean may select from the general student body of the school.

Faculty members of the UDC are selected by the president in consultation with the faculty; deans are selected by the provost.

All members of the UDC must sign confidentiality agreements, violation of which is cause for immediate removal from the UDC and possible disciplinary action. The individual who appointed a given member of the UDC has authority to remove the member for failing to discharge his or her duties, including, but not limited to, violation of confidentiality.

Panels are drawn from the UDC membership for each disciplinary hearing. The size of the hearing panel in most cases has been reduced from seven members to five: Two faculty or deans, two students, one chair. At least one member of the panel must be a faculty member.

UDC Hearings

Both the complainant and the respondent may attend the hearing and may be accompanied and assisted by an advisor. A pool of advisors will be available for students who cannot locate one, and all advisors will receive an orientation to the disciplinary process. Student Life staff will not serve as advisors.

The hearing begins with the case administrator's report. The complainant and respondent may make opening or closing statements, but UDC panel members must ask all questions of hearing participants. The complainant and respondent may direct questions through the hearing chair.

After UDC hearings

A Deans' Council, consisting of three deans selected by the provost from deans of the three schools, will hear all appeals of UDC cases that are allowed by the provost. One of the three deans on the council will be designated as chair.

The UDC may decline to hear a case, based solely upon a consideration of written materials. If the UDC declines to hear a case, that case is referred to the Deans' Council for hearing.

Alcohol offense

Counseling is now mandatory for any party to a disciplinary incident - complainant, respondent or witnesses - who either misused alcohol or who exercised poor judgment about alcohol use by others. University officials will determine what counseling or treatment is appropriate or necessary.


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