Student protesters expect a certain degree of punishment when they engage in civil disobedience on campus. After all, the peaceful violation of rules is an important part of some demonstration tactics. But that expectation, in years past, was accompanied by an often slow, inefficient and unfair student conduct process at UC Berkeley.
Aimed at addressing these concerns, a revised version the Campus Code of Student Conduct went into effect Wednesday after more than a year in the making. The changes, however, are just a starting point. With them come hopes that future conduct charges — for protesters and students charged with other offenses — will be resolved with greater expediency and fairness.
These revisions are welcome, yes. They will afford those charged with conduct violations a more reasonable and mapped-out set of expectations — a degree of certainty previously absent from the code. The creation of an independent hearing officer position creates a much-needed promise of uniformity and impartiality previously absent from conduct proceedings.
But if tweaks to the code are not accompanied by an attitude shift in the campus Center for Student Conduct, then they serve little purpose. Attempts can be made to modify and perfect the code every year, but for the conduct process to truly serve students, it must be driven by a desire to find solutions through education rather than punishment. A university’s student conduct process cannot ever be punitive: that is the domain of our country’s legal system, which can and has pursued charges against students while the conduct process is ongoing.
ASUC Student Advocate Samar Shah is correct in stating that the best way to revise the code would be to write a new one more easily understood by students — a key motivator behind the latest changes. And when students better comprehend the rules that govern them in greater detail, so too will those who enforce them.