Spring 2020 Proposed Amendments to the Campus Code of Conduct

PUBLIC FORUM VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPTS (5/7/2020)

The Codes and Judicial Committee of the University Assembly was charged by the President to review the following recommended changes that were a result of the Campus Climate Task Force:
  • Reworking the Code to have an educational and aspirational rather than punitive, quasi-criminal tone.
  • Significantly simplifying the Code and having it use “plain English”.
  • Narrowing its focus to students.
  • Separating standards of behavior from administrative procedures for managing misconduct.
  • Simplifying the administrative procedures.
  • Expanding the treatment of Harassment.
  • Permitting enhanced penalties for Harassment or Assault that are motivated by bias.
  • Considering moving less serious types of misconduct to the Office of the Dean of Students for resolution.
The CJC has considered these recommendations into the proposals posted here for public comment.
While reviewing these proposals, we ask that you keep these recommended changes in mind:
  • Do you agree or disagree with these changes?
  • Do you think the CJC incorporated these changes well into its proposals or did it not go far enough with incorporating some of these changes?
  • Are there changes that aren't part of that list that you think we should consider as well?

All of your comments will help the Codes and Judicial Committee in its efforts to create a better Code for our community. Review and public comment by the Cornell community are welcomed and encouraged through 5:00 PM on Friday, May 8, 2020.

Downloadable PDF of consolidated public comments

 


The items below are related to the substantive section of the Code revision. 

The items below are related to the procedural section of the Code revision. Please note that a * denotes a section that has corresponding CJC comments that the committee wishes the public to review.


This page contains comments posted by members of the Cornell community pertaining to General Comments in the current and proposed Campus Code and judicial system. Before posting to this forum, please read the comments below to make sure that the information you are providing is pertinent to the discussion and has not already been addressed before. Comments containing inappropriate language, including but not limited to offensive, profane, vulgar, threatening, harassing, or abusive language, are subject to removal.

Review and public comment by the Cornell community are welcomed and encouraged through 5:00 PM on Friday, May 8, 2020.

Comments

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Section 4.1 of the

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 17:02 (user name hidden)

Section 4.1 of the substantive section of the Code revision should include disability status

Expansion of Harassment Definition

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 17:00 (user name hidden)

I'm not going to repeat the criticisms of lowering the burden of proof that others have been made, which are clearly adherent.

I also agree with others that we shouldn't be moving to expand the definition of harassment, which is already wide and vague, but to make a better, and more narrow, definition so that we have a clear understanding of what constitutes harassment. Expanding the definition seems completely counterproductive, and increases the likelihood of being used in nefarious ways. 

However, I do want to bring attention to the definition of harassment that includes the following clause: "the fact that the conduct targets a group that has historically experienced discrimination may be relevant to a determination of whether the conduct creates a hostile environment." I think this is politically and ideologically motivated language, and should absolutely not be part of any objective definition of harassment. What constitutes a " a group that has historically experienced discrimination" exactly? And which "groups" 'deserve' to be part of this category, and what 'groups' don't? And who decides this? More importantly, this amounts to essentially creating a protected class, or set of groups, on campus in that any remarks made that can be construed as 'conducts that targets' them (which is subjective) can be deemed as creating a hostile environment. This seems incredibly authoritarian and a potentially extremely dangerous road to embark on in a setting that claims to offer a space for opinions to be heard as well as differing viewpoints to be part of a learning environment. 

Section 4.1 should include

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 16:58 (user name hidden)

Section 4.1 should include disability status.

Due Process

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 16:49 (user name hidden)

These rules completely bypass a students rights to due process. 

False Advertisement

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 16:27 (user name hidden)

The proposed amendment has literally nothing to do with the 'summarized' bullet point list in the email that was sent. All this amendment is, is the University seeking to expand its power in Judiciary proceedings against students. I very strongly disagree with lowering the standard of proof, as "likely" just isn't enough. Due process requires the assumption of innocent until PROVEN guilty, and for that, you need clear and convincing evidence. I'm actually appaled, as I used to think the amendment was a good thing when I read the short list of the amendment's intended purpose, yet saw none of that reflected in the actual amendment itself. Literally, whoever wrote that summary is beyond biased, and clearly sees lowering the burden of proof as "educational," whatever that even means (I don't even see somewhat of a connection).

Also, I don't understand how a 3-year suspension isn't enough? And to almost double it? That's just kind of ridiculous. Seriously though, couldn't this wait until students are back in session, or are you guys just that power-hungry to try to push massive changes while you think that students won't notice. Something that I think had good intentions, but still disagree with, is making the rules easier to understand. While this may seem like it benefits the general public, having a list of rules in "plain English" could lead to a lot of gray areas. Keeping the vocabulary to be precise is more important in my opinion, so as to have a clear set of rules, rather than have 5th graders think they understand it. We're Cornell Students, so if you think we can't handle some advanced vocabulary, why did you even take us in? That's just insulting.

In regards to Section 6.5, I propose the following:

-Hearings should, by default, be made private, with the only exception being if both the complainant and the accused determine to have a public hearing.

In regards to Sections 6.6 and 6.9, I propose the following:

-Respondents should have the right to ask questions of the complainant, regardless of the situation, but may be stripped of that right only if the Hearing panel believes that the respondent is behaving inadequately (e.g. intimidating).

-Complainants should be required to testify (or have someone testify in their place), except for situations involving sexual harrassment and/or assault. I firmly believe that it is immoral to have sexual assault victims be question by their potential assailant. 

-Witnesses should not be required to testity. As is mentioned, this is indeed punitive and not "educational", as well as a delay tactic. 

-The rules of evidence shall be strict, and set in stone. Having the Hearing Panel decide on rules of evidence on a case-by-case basis is completely unfair and unjudicial. These rules, in order to uphold due process, should be clear and convincing. Then, after all admitted evidence is considered, the Panel shall have a written statement with its decision, rationale for that decision (including why they believe that the evidence is clear and convincing) and related opinions. If the burden of proof is changed to preponderance of evidence (more likely than not basis) then I believe that the current sanctions are unfair. I would hate to see students be expelled, for example, for something that was "more likely than not". As unlikely as it may be to win a lotery (and by unlikely, I mean really really really unlikely) people still do win it sometimes. 

 

With all this said, I do wish students were given more time to fully review the amendment. Not only am I busy now with class and upcoming finals, but we still are in the midst of this pandemic, and I know that not every family is as fortunate as mine to be going through this pandemic as smoothly as mine is. I would like to push for this comment period to be extended until end of June, which should be plenty of time for everyone to review the amendment fully, and not just blindly accept the University's power hungry request.

 

On the other hand, here is what I agree with:

-Literally nothing

 

Anonymous, '21

Controlling Who Students Affiliate With?

Submitted by Nicholas Brodack Allen on Tue, 2020-05-05 16:25

I am extremely discouraged by the vagueness of section 4.1 of the proposed changes, making a point to go after students who "knowingly affiliate with groups, teams, or organizations that have had their University recognition or registration withdrawn." This could imply that a previous friend, sibling or even new acquaintance could be punished for "being involved in any activity that would normally be associated with being a member of such an organization," like how more vague can you get? Are people of a disaffiliated organization supposed to just dissolve their friendships as to not have someone who was not a "member" potentially live with them, or even worse, share mutual interests? And besides the definition, how would you enforce it? Will you raid former frat houses and write up any sophomores? Or will you check Instagram for pictures of people hanging out with members of Mock Trial before they got the boot? Like what is the burden of proof to show someone has friends they're not supposed to have? Oh that's right, I guess we don't even need proof anymore either.

Controlling Who Students Affiliate With?

Submitted by Nicholas Brodack Allen on Tue, 2020-05-05 16:25

I am extremely discouraged by the vagueness of section 4.1 of the proposed changes, making a point to go after students who "knowingly affiliate with groups, teams, or organizations that have had their University recognition or registration withdrawn." This could imply that a previous friend, sibling or even new acquaintance could be punished for "being involved in any activity that would normally be associated with being a member of such an organization," like how more vague can you get? Are people of a disaffiliated organization supposed to just dissolve their friendships as to not have someone who was not a "member" potentially live with them, or even worse, share mutual interests? And besides the definition, how would you enforce it? Will you raid former frat houses and write up any sophomores? Or will you check Instagram for pictures of people hanging out with members of Mock Trial before they got the boot? Like what is the burden of proof to show someone has friends they're not supposed to have? Oh that's right, I guess we don't even need proof anymore either.

Lowering burden of proof, among other concerns

Submitted by Christopher P Dunn on Tue, 2020-05-05 16:07

Like many others who have posted comments here, I, too am concerned about the apparent lowering of the burden of proof.  In addition, some types of conduct might be construed as denying free speech.  For instance, blocking vehicular and pedestrian traffic could be the consequence of a student, faculty, or community rally, demonstration, or protest.  I hope there is some leeway here, but I don't seen it.  Furthermore, I do not see any aspects of the code that refer to despicable behaviours such as racism, anti-Semitism, or other hateful or bigoted acts or utterances. 

Problematic language in sections 4.12

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 16:05 (user name hidden)

The language in section 4.12 leaves an opening for subjective "reasonable objection" and "my truth" arguments.

 

Because of protections afforded by principles of free speech and academic freedom, expression will not be considered harassment (up to here it is objective) unless
the expression also meets one or both of the following criteria (here is when it turn subjective):
- it is meant to be either abusive or humiliating toward a specific person or persons; or
- it persists despite the reasonable objection of the person or person targeted by the speech.

 

I can be easily shown how an ideology bent individual could easily wrap and use these subjective criteria as a hammer to silence free-speech as we have all witnessed in recent years with "cancel culture". NOTE: We have all witnessed in recent years, protesters shutting down campus conservative speakers because of opinion they deemed "humiliating" or "abusive" by their subjective perspective)

It is in my opinion that if Cornell wishes to be a place where free-speech presides, the subjective part of the wording of this section should be removed to protect freedom of speech. There are matters for courts of law.

This wording will enable ill-intended individuals to promote fascism and silence opinion, not their own.

Opposition to proposed changes to Section 8.4

Submitted by Conor P Cathey on Tue, 2020-05-05 15:48

I write to voice my opposition to the proposed changes to Section 8.4.  The standard of proof should remain clear and convincing evidence. The supposed rational of switching to preponderance of evidence to make the process more “educational” is a level of Orwellian doublespeak that even Mr. Orwell would not have considered possible. The possible consequences of disciplinary hearings for many Cornell students are significantly harsher than any civil proceeding and the standard of proof before taking such harsh measures should be correspondingly higher.

 

Furthermore, the decision to move ahead with this process during an unprecedented global crisis defies explanation. The failure of the CJC to complete the revisions on time is not an excuse to proceed with fundamental changes to the Campus Code of Conduct during such crisis. It reeks of impropriety and gives the appearance of using the crisis to duck opposition to changes that will be extremely unpopular with Cornell community.

 

I would have liked to review the entirety of the proposed changes, but under the circumstances it is simply not possible. I am extremely disappointed in Cornell.

 

Respectfully,

 

Conor P. Cathey

 

J.D. Candidate, Cornell Law School, Class of 2021

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