SGA holds Town Hall on Student Code of Conduct

Photo courtesy of Rae Allen

Amid debates on student disciplinary processes, the Undergraduate Judiciary Cabinet (UJC) held a Town Hall to answer questions and explain Tech’s processes from the perspective of students involved.

Among those present were Jen Abrams, undergraduate student body president; Trenton Kilbey, chief justice of the UJC; Jefferson Losse, executive undergraduate vice president; and Tyler McCrary and Michael Barlordas, two student justices on the UJC.

The Town Hall began with a rundown of how the student discipline process works for non-academic misconduct, particularly in the context of the UJC.

The UJC’s role is typically to hear cases in situations where an accused student will opt for a trial format instead of a smaller-scale investigation by an OSI officer.

Kilbey reiterated several times the selective nature of the organization, as well as the strict code of conduct justices are expected to adhere to when they serve.

“UJC, … maybe every fall and spring semester, maybe once a year, sends out [applications] to every organization we can think of and pretty much everyone we know,” Kilbey said. “People apply, and then we pick 20 or 30 depending on the number of applications we get to come interview. They come in front of the board, and we ask them questions, and then from there we pick out however many positions we need to fill.”

After the interviews, the process becomes highly selective. “Our acceptance rate for this last round of applicants was 10 percent,” Balordas added.

“In our organization, it’s well-known that what’s discussed inside the hearings should stay inside the hearings,” Kilbey said. “If there’s an issue where someone thinks that hasn’t happened, please come forward to me, because that is a serious breach of confidentiality.”

The first question posed to the panel confirmed the status of Peter Paquette. He is no longer serving as the director of the Office of Student Integrity and has been transferred to the position of Assistant Dean of Student Life.

Bonnie Weston is now serving as interim director of Student Integrity. Having arrived at Tech in the summer of 2015, Weston previously worked under Paquette’s direction.

From there, the conversation focused largely on the status of Tech’s Code of Conduct and how students can engage in the conversation about what it should and should not be. Perhaps most importantly, students are being encouraged to bring their concerns to members of the Undergraduate Judiciary Cabinet (UJC) as well as relevant administrators.

“Definitely talking to SGA, and to us in general [is the best way to get involved]. Trenton is our Chief Justice, and he’s graduating in May but there’s always a Chief Justice for us,” Abrams said. “As well as to talk to representatives in the house … I would say UJC knows most about the Code of Conduct and how we handle that. They work most closely with Student Integrity as well, so as far as understanding things from a student perspective and voicing those opinions, [UJC] would be a great branch of SGA to reach out to.”

“If you feel that you’re from an underrepresented part of campus, you should definitely think about becoming a part of UJC,” McCrary said. “We’re always looking to get diverse perspectives … . If you’re really interested in learning more about the process, it would actually behoove both us and you to become a part of this.”

“Dean Stein is our advocate for students,” Abrams said. “That office is always here to hear if you feel like you weren’t treated fairly or if you have questions. The staff there is really great at answering all of the questions that come up.

“Burns Newsome is our Title IX Coordinator, and so if you also have questions about Title IX, he has a great schpiel he can give, explaining how Title IX came about, when it started and where we are now at Georgia Tech and how we’ve reacted to it.”

Several student advocates also took the opportunity to vocalize their concerns and opinions, as well as give recommendations during the forum.

“If you’re concerned about the sexual assault provisions, I am one of the students who is concerned, and I’m working with fifteen or twenty students right now to try to show our concern about this,” said Kate Napier, third-year PHYS and member of campus organization Title Niners. “I think we need a stronger voice against this, and I think that policy changes will support the accused and not the victim.

“I commend Georgia Tech on being one of the only schools that’s really been compliant with Title IX and for being an example of how we are supposed to respond. I want us to continue being strong and I don’t want us to back down in the face of political pressures.”