The Judicial System

Photo of StudentIt’s all about living and learning together. . .
Students at the University of Mary Washington are entitled to a community that is conducive to their safety, personal growth, and academic success. By providing expectations for responsible conduct, and by having a judicial system that responds when community standards may have been violated, the University seeks to maintain a balance between the rights of individual community members and the rights of the community as a whole.

The judicial system includes the Director of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility, the Associate Director of Judicial Affairs, professional members of the Residence Life staff, the Student Conduct Hearing Board, and the Judicial Review Board (JRB). (The Honor Council is a separate entity, and is not a part of the judicial system.)

PHILOSOPHY:
Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility

        The University’s judicial system seeks to balance the needs of individual students and the needs of the surrounding community. Education is the system’s primary goal — specifically, assisting students to develop a sense of ethics and responsibility to themselves, to each other, and to the communities in which they study, work, and live. Furthermore, when students conduct themselves in a manner that is inconsistent with the standards of the University, it also is a goal of the judicial system to educate them about the consequences of their conduct, and to provide them with the tools to make decisions that are consistent with responsibility both to themselves and to their community.

The “Statement of Community Values” provides a template for standards promoting a campus environment that is safe, comfortable, and supportive of the University’s mission. Some conduct cannot be tolerated as it threatens the basic safety and well-being of others in the University community. Other conduct, while less serious, has an adverse impact on the University’s educational mission. Policies and conduct standards have been carefully developed to minimize the risk of harm to all members of the University community, and to maximize the ability of students to achieve excellence in all areas. In addition, local, state and federal laws have been considered in developing the University’s rules, regulations, and judicial policies. The Code of Conduct (below) lists expectations UMW has of all its students. However, an academic community should provide many opportunities for self-government. To this end, authority has been given to students through organizations such as the Student Government Association, the Student Senate, and the Judicial Review Board, as well as through Self-determination by Community Standards to uphold the rights of students on our campus and in our community.

The University’s judicial system and the Code of Conduct are administered by the Office of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility. The Office maintains oversight over administrative hearings, the Judicial Review Board, and the Student Conduct Hearing Board.

Because student behavior, character development, and ethics go hand in hand, the Office of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility supports programs that raise students’ awareness of ethical issues – from individual and community-related to global – that are present in contemporary society. It also assists students to resolve conflicts that may arise by using alternatives to the judicial process, including mediation.

SELF-DETERMINATION BY COMMUNITY STANDARDS

The University’s dedication to a liberal arts education is reflected in its policy of self-determination. Each residence hall* is viewed as a living-learning center whose goal is to enrich each student’s educational experience. Under the policy of self-determination, the residents of each hall, with the guidance of Residence Life staff members, develop guidelines and procedures of governance for living which allow for both individual freedom and respect for the privacy and personal rights of others in the community.
Residents in each hall exercise this responsibility of self-governance through Complex Councils. Students develop guidelines called community standards which pertain to the maintenance of a clean and orderly environment, the establishment of quiet and courtesy hours, the regulation of visitation of guests, the assurance of a reasonable level of safety and security, and the regulation of conduct which infringes on the rights of other residents.
The policies and procedures, adopted by Complex Councils as the community standards for each hall, must be compatible with University policy, public laws, and the academic objectives of a residential, educational community. The individual’s right to privacy and freedom of personal choice, and the educational goals of the University must always be ensured. Each student has the right to counsel with a member of the Residence Life staff concerning problems arising from self-determination. The staff of Residence Life and the Office of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility have the right to intervene to ensure that the rights of all students are respected.
The ultimate goal is to build communities in which individuals are not harassed, excluded, or made to feel uncomfortable because of sex, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability, lifestyle, or political beliefs. The University years should allow the exploration and development of personal identity and values, and this exploration can best take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding, and self-determination.
*NOTE: The words “residence hall” or “hall” are used interchangeably and refer to any residential unit associated with campus. No differentiation is made between residence halls and houses in the policies and guidelines set forth in this section.

Self-Determination by Community Standards in the residence halls

        Residence Life staff members will meet with small groups of students, who will discuss and decide (by consensus) the rights and responsibilities of community members. Rules such as quiet hours, visitation, damages, 24-hour study rooms, and kitchen use are areas in which students may exercise self-determination. Students may choose to adhere to the rules which have already been set as a standard in the Student Handbook. These rules will remain in place until the residents reach a different decision. Safety regulations and policies based upon the Code of Virginia and/or federal laws are not negotiable. Issues which may affect the entire building, such as quiet hours and visitation, will be decided by the community based upon recommendations from individual hall groups. If a rule does not seem to be appropriate or working, any member of the community may present a proposal to the Complex Council for reconsideration during a scheduled meeting. Once the rules of the residence hall have been decided, these rules should be posted.
Alleged violations of individual or community rights may be reported and/or documented by any member of the community. Incident reports are completed and routed to the appropriate disciplinary process as outlined elsewhere in this section. The Self-determination by Community Standards concept reflects a strong preference for educational rather than punitive outcomes in instances where University policies are violated. Where these approaches are not successful or not appropriate, the judicial processes are designed to enforce adherence to the rules on community standards and protect the interests of individuals who are being victimized as well as the community at large. Each disciplinary situation is handled on a case-by-case basis. Given the individual nature of each situation, there is no set list of mandatory sanctions attached to specific violations.

Complex Councils

        The Complex Council serves as the representative governing body for each residence hall. The Complex Council is comprised of the president, a vice president for each hall within the complex, a treasurer, a secretary, and a historian; the social/publicity and sustainability chairpersons; and floor representatives. The Complex Supervisor or Senior Resident Assistant serves as Complex Council advisor and acts as a valuable resource for facilitating community development. Councils serve to coordinate the community standards program within each residence hall and also strive to build community and promote a positive, healthy atmosphere in each hall.

The role of Self-Determination by Community Standards (fall semester)

        During the first few weeks of the fall semester, Resident Assistants will convene and conduct floor meetings to discuss and decide upon the rules and regulations that will serve as community standards for the floor. Rules that affect other floors or the entire building must be presented to the building residents for a vote. The voting process is as follows: 1) at least 66% of building residents must vote; then, 2) a majority of the vote will determine the outcome.

The role of Self-Determination by Community Standards (spring semester)

        During the first few weeks of spring semester, fall semester community standards are to be reviewed by the Complex Council of each building. Changes are to be discussed and voted upon. All changes are to be announced throughout the residence hall. After initial spring semester revisions are made, the Complex Council proposal format should be used to recommend changes in policies, procedures, services, or community standards.

Self-Determination by Community Standards outside the residence halls

        Commuting students also benefit from the concept of self-determination. Furthermore, not all community standards concerning students who live in the residence halls apply to residence hall settings. Under the auspices of the Student Government Association (SGA), the Student Senate has the responsibility to legislate with regard to all issues of student concern.