Concerns arise in Code of Student Conduct revision

With the approval of final recommendations to revise the UC Berkeley Code of Student Conduct, more than eight months of work by a task force charged with developing the changes have come to a close, and plans to begin work on the recommendations have been set in motion, though there has been some concern that a change in language alone will not be enough to address some of the issues plaguing the conduct process.

Following the June 24 approval of the recommendations made by the task force to revise the code, the next immediate steps to be taken involve developing and drafting the independent hearing officer job description — one of the task force’s recommendations — as well as convening a work group to rewrite the Code of Student Conduct, according to Felicia Lee, chief of staff for the campus Office of Student Affairs.

Members from the campus Office of Legal Affairs, Student Advocate’s Office and Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards will be involved in the rewriting process, and the first round of rewrites will occur over the summer with the goal of implementation in the fall, Lee said in an email.

While the official work of the task force has been completed, ASUC Student Advocate and task force member Samar Shah said in an email that “the process is far from over at this point.”

“Previous task forces have been convened only to be stymied in the implementation process,” Shah said in the email. “Although the deliberation over the recommendations during the task force was an arduous process, I have always considered the implementation process to be the clear hurdle. I believe student input and oversight will be necessary for a successful implementation.”

Despite administrator approval of the recommended changes, some have raised concerns that a change in the language of the code will not be sufficient to address issues that the student conduct process has come under fire for, arguing that how the new code is implemented more than how it is written, will dictate the overall success of the process.

According to task force member and Cooperative Movement ASUC Senator Elliot Goldstein, “a lot of the core issues existed on how the code was being implemented, not necessarily with the language of the code itself.”

He added that given the climate of state budget cuts, an upswing in campus political activity is anticipated which will prove to be the ultimate test as to whether the “changes made have been effective or not.”

“When the effects of the new state budget cuts ripple through the UC system this coming year, we will be witnessing (and participating in) an upswing in protest and activism,” Goldstein said in an email. “The (Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards) is going to get flooded with cases, and the administration needs to be prepared to give due process to these cases without suspending the timelines rules or modifying the code mid-semester.”

Task force member Daniela Urban, a UC Berkeley School of Law student and member of the Campus Rights Project, said that in terms of helping future protest-related student conduct cases, “regardless of what code of conduct is in effect, if the university is still viewing the protest as a disruption instead of a necessity, then they are still going to have problems with student conduct and student protests.”

“Until they see (the protests) as a part of what needs to happen on campus to preserve public education, no code of conduct will improve that situation,” she said. “The problem with student conduct won’t be solved until the university is ready to support the protests on campus and join in the anti-austerity demonstrations — fight for the university like their students are.”

Allie Bidwell of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.
Aaida Samad is an assistant news editor.