Sweet Briar SGA Considers Changes to Student Handbook

By: Rebecca Mill
According to recent Student Government Association meeting minutes, changes to the Student Handbook may soon be underway. The Student Government Association discussed possible changes to the Student Handbook centering on the handling of judicial process on Monday, February 20th. Academic judicial chairwoman Sarah Brazell ’12 is leading the changes, seeking to reword existing policies, and introduce changes that would more fully separate academic and non-academic violations in the judicial process. Changes came about after Brazell looked at honor codes of area colleges as an example. Said Brazell,  “I studied the judicial systems from colleges similar to Sweet Briar for months and really learned the ins and outs so that I could refer it back to our process and improve it.” Hollin’s Honor System heavily influenced the changes because they have what Brazell describes as “great policy and process.”For academic honor code violations, the word “mediation” has been replaced with “hearing” in order to more clearly reflect the nature of the process. Another change is to the policy regarding cell phone use in class. Said Brazell, “right now if your cell phone goes off in class you’d be charged with giving or receiving unauthorized aid– and that’s not always the case.”
Non-academic cases would also be slightly altered. Changes would allow the judicial chair to determine if it is appropriate to for the accuser to be present, which is especially relevant in bullying cases.  Brazell stated that, “an accuser can offer a statement so that they don’t have to experience any more duress,” but added that “the chair and representative will act as a liaison between the accused and accuser and mediate situation.”

Another change addresses who will sit on the jury during the trial.  According to Brazell’s statement, “The jury will now be randomly selected either from the Judicial Committee and SGA Executive Board, or random student population.”

Changes may also be made to the Judicial Committee, with requirements that the chairwoman be in good academic standing and in their junior or senior year.  Chairwomen would also be required to have least one year of experience on the Judicial Committee.  Brazell hopes that this may, “allow our Chairwomen to be more dedicated to the system.”  In this system, the chairwomen would also be allotted more power.

The changes would also address the inappropriate use of social media in the class. According to SGA minutes proposed changes would make it  “an honor code offense to be on Facebook in class, etc. or to be on any handheld devices in class not necessary for class use.”

The SGA is also exploring the possibility of a whole new process of administrative review where judicial chairs can “meet with their faculty advisors on a case-by-case basis to determine if they need assistance or an additional set of eyes in looking at a case.”  According to Brazell, this process will be useful if, “the judicial chair thinks that a case has an underlying problem, is a really big deal on campus, or she feels it is too large for her to handle herself in good faith.”  This will also allow judicial chairs to send any issues with roommates to the Residence Life panel.

As of publication, Brazell was unsure of the feasibility of an administrative review process, stating the administration was not providing “a straight answer about having our chairwomen involved in an administrative process.”

Contact Rebecca Mill at mill15@sbc.edu with any questions or comments.
Photo courtesy of Jesse Schaaf .

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