A number of students have been working on implementing a Student Judicial Board (SJB) at CMC.
Zachariah Oquenda ’16 is one of the students spearheading the project. He said, “The SJB for all intents and purposes would act as the judicial branch of the ASCMC, and would be a new essential element of student governance. The SJB would exist to uphold the standards set by the students of CMC by providing peer adjudication of alleged student violations of the Social Contract, which is another document that students are forming currently.”
“In some ways the SJB is meant to act as mediating body between the students and DOS,” Oquenda said. “We want to show to the Board of Trustees, President Chodosh, and the Dean of Students that we can be responsible, self-regulating adults. We need to show them that we can balance the ‘work’ and the ‘play’ to the extent that we’ve been entrusted to do so. Our culture is unique; everyone knows that, so to deny that we have unique responsibilities as a result would be naïve.”
Oquenda’s plan for the SJB is a board consisting of nine voting members and two Co-Chairs to head the board. Members would rotate either quarterly or each semester, and would receive training every year to ensure they are properly presiding over cases.
“Let it be emphasized, the SJB is not to be a ‘disciplinary board,’ strictly speaking,” Oquenda continued. “To be clear, its main function will be to act as a ‘review board,’ meaning it is intended to hear cases of students and remind them of the expectations and standards to which fellow students hold them. Right now we have no formal process of doing this.”
Oquenda holds that the SJB would have very limited power. This means that only in repeat offense cases would the board have the authority to make “any determinations that may be viewed as sanctions,” Oquenda said. He listed service hours with the ASCMC Event Management Staff as a potential penalty for repeat offense. The board’s jurisdiction would also not apply to sexual misconduct or academic dishonesty.
“We want to adjudicate cases primarily that we on one hand do not think are worthy of harsh disciplinary action (suspension or expulsion), while on the other do need to be addressed in some manner,” Oquenda said. “It’s all about balance. We as a student body, I think, are just feeling out what the best balance is to best promote student autonomy as well as growth and development into respectable, productive members of society.”
ASCMC debates on the topic have centered on the jurisdiction of the board, term limits, and avenues for reporting. In a recent meeting, the ASCMC Executive Board came to a consensus in an informal vote that 1-year term limits for SJB officers would be ideal, which Zachariah then incorporated into the outline for the board. Members also raised concerns about jurisdiction, particularly in regards to the role of the Dean of Students office and its potential to act as an oversight body for the board.
Reporting avenues were another key topic at the ASCMC Executive Board meeting. The group came to a discussion consensus that multiple avenues for safe reporting and confidentiality were key features in the plans for the SJB, as they want to provide options for students to report cases in different ways. Potential reporting avenues include reporting through Residential Assistants (RAs), filling out a form, and student-to-student accountability, although concerns were raised as to the impact of this process on the small Claremont community.
As for the relation of the SJB with the tentative Student Social Contract, Freshman Class President Cole Mora ’17 said, “They are separate initiatives, both of which promote responsibility, accountability, and respect within the student body. The Social Contract promotes cultural reform through its message and implementation, and while the Student Judiciary Board is based upon the values of the Social Contract, it will likely have a more specific focus on upholding the Contract’s values and expectations through a system of peer reviews and appeals.”
Oquenda said that the idea for the board “developed from a conversation I had with one of the Board of Trustee members about CMC social culture.” He continued, “The Trustee told me that CMC had a peer review board in the sixties, when CMC was still just a men’s college. The issues for which it dissolved are largely unknown, but perhaps we can guess that it had something to do with the climate of that time with regard to drug policy and racial tensions.”
Although the details of this preexisting board are unclear, Oquenda has been looking to other colleges for models of student boards.
“I’m merely laying the groundwork for discussion, but I think it is necessary that for this board to work the rest of the student body really needs to make this project their own,” Oquenda said.
Mora echoed this sentiment, saying, “The SJB and the Contract are not DOS initiatives, they are student initiatives, and the Contract draws its influence and desired effect through the collective buy-in of the student body.”