While we may never know what concessions were put on the negotiating table by the university to reach an agreement on the 2010 Campus Plan, we are sad to learn of yet another area where our school’s administration is willing to compromise for community approval: student justice.
The decision Thursday by Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson to change the Code of Student Conduct evidentiary standard to “clear and convincing” for on-campus charges is a long-awaited victory for student rights. But Olson’s announcement that the “more likely than not” standard will remain in place for off-campus incidents signals a troubling subservience to neighborhood interests at students’ expense.
Olson released a statement stating that the decision on the off-campus standard was reached “to ensure that conduct off campus and university policies related to that conduct match our shared community expectations.” Excluding extreme circumstances such as sexual assault, justice is the only consideration that should inform the choice for an evidentiary standard. The administration’s interest in discouraging behavior that might disrupt the surrounding community is not legitimate grounds for making such an exception.
The Georgetown Community Partnership — once thought to offer a fresh start to town-gown relations — now looms as yet another roadblock to university progress. The neighborhood wielded a disproportionate amount of leverage in campus plan negotiations, and the GCP will soon have authority in setting policy regarding off-campus infractions. Why does university policy continue to be pressured by anything other than a commitment to what it knows is right?
For the moment, let’s celebrate the valiant work of the Disciplinary Review Committee and the Georgetown University Student Association in convincing Olson to make this change. But going forward, we must demand an explanation as to why the administration apparently values the neighborhood’s preferences over the rights of its students.