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Distributed Month 00, 2003
Contact Mark Nickel

Principles of the Brown Community
Brown University revises its non-academic discipline system

Brown University’s newly revised system for non-academic discipline, which is in effect beginning with the 2003-04 academic year, provides additional options for disposition of cases. It is based on a new statement of principles that applies to all members of the University community – faculty and staff as well as students.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Following a comprehensive internal review, Brown University has revised its non-academic discipline system for the 2003-04 academic year to offer additional options for resolution of cases and greater clarity of policies and procedures.

The revisions, approved by the University’s governing body at its May 2003 meeting, are based on a new statement of principles that is shared by the entire University community – faculty and staff as well as students.

Editors: The revised policies are available from the News Service (401 863-2476) and are on the Web at

“Basing our code on principles that are common to the whole University places our system of non-academic discipline in a new and larger context,” said David Greene, interim vice president for campus life and student services. “The revisions will make the system more responsive, more flexible and more easily understood, and they will allow the University to be more effective in addressing student discipline issues that interfere with learning.”

The revised code grew out of a comprehensive review initiated in March 2001 by Sheila E. Blumstein, then interim president of Brown. Meera Viswanathan, associate professor of comparative literature, chaired a 16-member committee of faculty, students and administrators which conducted the review and presented its report to President Ruth J. Simmons.

The University’s last comprehensive review of the non-academic discipline system produced changes that took effect in September 1997.

“The creation of a Peer Community Standards Board will be a tremendous help in resolving minor, first-time offenses,” said Margaret Jablonski, dean for campus life. “It has created a larger role for students in the system and will give students greater responsibility for upholding community principles.”

Highlights of the changes that are in effect this fall include:

  • Statement of principles. A new Principles of the Brown University Community replaces the former Tenets of Community Behavior. Unlike the Tenets, which applied specifically to students, the new document applies to all members of the University community – faculty, staff and students. It describes four general principles: respect for the integrity of the academic process; individual integrity; respect for the freedoms and privileges of others; and respect for University resources. Separate sets of policies, based on those principles, are maintained for faculty, staff and students.
  • Student rights and responsibilities. A new articulation of student rights and responsibilities clearly sets out what students or student organizations charged with offenses may expect. These include the right to be informed of charges in writing; the right to have reasonable time to prepare a response; an assurance of confidentiality; the right to request that a hearing officer or member of a hearing body be disqualified on grounds of personal bias; the right to have an advisor during a formal investigation; and six other specific rights.
  • Additional options for disposition of cases. In addition to dean’s hearings, medDCCD), cases may now also be resolved through a Peer Community Standards Board (typically for minor, first-time offenses); an administrative hearing (for matters serious enough to warrant a UDC hearing, at the option of the charged student); and a student organization hearing (for alleged violations by student organizations rather than individuals). The Office of Student Life will strongly encourage resolution of cases through mediation whenever possible and appropriate.
  • Appointment of members to hearing bodies. Student members of hearing bodies will be appointed by the appropriate student governing body (undergraduate, graduate, medical). Previously, student government nominated members who were then appointed by a senior dean.
  • Revision of existing offenses. Some of the offenses against the standards of conduct have been updated or rewritten for clarity. The previous Offense II.b. (“Behavior which ... shows flagrant disrespect for the well-being of others”) was frequently criticized as vague and too broad. It has been removed. Offense IV now proscribes abusive, threatening, intimidating or harassing actions including, but not limited to, those based on “race, religion, gender, disability, age, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” That language parallels recent changes in Brown’s nondiscrimination policy and in state law.
  • Witnesses. Under provisions of a new Offense XII, any member of the community who has knowledge or information about a case and who has been notified to appear at a hearing may face up to three semesters of probation for failing to appear as a witness. That offense is immediately actionable by the hearing body.
  • Appeals and reviews. Within five business days of notification of a hearing’s outcome, respondents may appeal in writing. The dean for campus life considers appeals from the Peer Community Standards Board; all others are heard by the provost or the provost’s designee. The appeal officer may reduce the severity of a sanction or remand the case to the appropriate hearing body. Appeals are normally considered in the case of new evidence not available to the hearing body or when an allegation of substantial procedural error is made.
  • Policy review. Hearing officers, members of review boards and senior staff of the University may recommend changes to the president, who may forward them to the Corporation. The policy now calls for a review of disciplinary procedures at least once every three years.


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