Formal review of Stanford’s Student Judicial Charter begins

A new committee comprising students, faculty and staff will develop a process for gathering feedback from the Stanford community on how the Student Judicial Charter can be improved.

Stanford is embarking on a formal review of the Student Judicial Charter, the governing document for the university’s individual student conduct proceedings and processes.

Stanford's main quad

A formal review of Stanford’s Student Judicial Charter will begin this quarter. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The objective of the review is to determine whether the charter needs to be updated in order to create a more efficient judiciary process that focuses on student learning and fairness.

The review process is an equal partnership among the Associated Students of Stanford University, the Faculty Senate and the university administration. It is being led by a new committee charged with evaluating numerous aspects of the charter and developing recommendations to present to the Board on Judicial Affairs (BJA), which is responsible for modifying judicial policies and procedures and ultimately deciding whether to draft a new charter.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole said that, among other goals, committee members will be asked to consider whether the current judicial process is fair to students, if sanctions are overly punitive and how to better focus the process on student learning.

“We believe that all student judicial processes should have an educational component, and restorative justice is one means through which to ensure that education can stay front and center,” she said.

Brubaker-Cole stressed that it is important to remember that there are different layers of harm when the Fundamental Standard, which outlines expected student behavior, or the Honor Code, which ensures academic integrity among students, are broken and the Student Judicial Charter invoked.

“That needs to be considered from the perspective of impact on community or other individuals,” she said. “Restorative justice can be a means of addressing the harm to others.”

The review committee will consist of 10 members, including four faculty, four students and two staff. The faculty members will be appointed through the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Committees. The four student representatives will be one ASSU senator, one graduate student councilor and two at-large students selected through the Nominations Commission (NomCom) process. Committee membership is currently being finalized and will be announced when complete.

The committee’s charge

During winter quarter, the committee, which will be known as the Committee of 10, will formally begin the review of the Student Judicial Charter. A formal charge of the committee has been drafted and approved by faculty, staff and student representatives. The charge involves examining whether the current Student Judicial Charter and related policies create a system of student accountability that aligns with the values and needs of today’s campus community, including fostering student development and learning.

The committee also will examine whether the Fundamental Standard, drafted in 1896, requires interpretative refinements. They will also consider whether the university should continue to operate under the Honor Code, created in 1921, as written for matters of academic integrity. The committee should then determine whether amendments are required to the charter in order to align Stanford’s administrative processes with its community values.

According to the charge, if changes are required, the committee should create a Student Judicial Charter of 2020 and related policies to be implemented in the next academic year, with approval from the ASSU, the Faculty Senate and the university president. Finally, the committee should make recommendations for how to ensure that Stanford’s student accountability system can continue to be relevant and a part of the campus culture for future generations.

Just as the committee’s membership is structured to ensure a broad representation of the Stanford community, the review process will also be representative and inclusive. Throughout the review, the committee will continually seek community feedback, both in-person and through online opportunities.

Evolving Stanford

Brubaker-Cole said that the time is appropriate for Stanford to consider whether the charter, which was developed in 1996, is keeping pace with societal and technological developments.

“This has been a topic of discussion amongst faculty for a number of years,” she said.

In recent months, some faculty have expressed concern that the charter is misaligned with some of the charter’s educational purposes. Brubaker-Cole said that after considering the issue last spring, the BJA agreed that a formal review was needed.

“The Board of Judicial Affairs, which is composed of students, faculty and staff, is eager for this review to take place, and to take a deep look at some of the policies, requirements and educational functions that the charter places on their work and on the Office of Community Standards,” she said.

Once the membership selection process is finished and the committee’s membership is complete, the review will formally begin. The group will convene regularly through the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. By June, members will submit a report of progress to the BJA, as well as determine the next steps in the review process, should it continue into the next academic year.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs will serve as the administrative home of the Student Judicial Charter review. More information about the charter, the Honor Code and the Fundamental Standard is available on the Office of Community Standards webpage.