Judicial Affairs to adjust policy wording

Amadeus Smith

Language tops the list of things the Student Rights and Standards Committee is looking to change in the university’s guidelines.

R. P. Flynn, director of Judicial Affairs, said he was concerned that a majority of students may not understand the language in Kent State’s 2006-2007 “University Life: Digest of Rules and Regulations.”

“The code is rather old,” Flynn said. “It was written in the ’70s. We’ve kept it because it has been bulletproof.”

The committee drafted a revised version of standing policies. The new document is an acting draft, which means none of the newly worded policies have been set in place.

Flynn said most sections of the digest, which was written by lawyers, have been left with only a few alterations.

For example, Section A “Purpose” states the university board must assure that the conduct of everyone on campus doesn’t conflict with the university’s ability to “pursue its educational objectives.”

In the revised edition, the same idea is described, but replaces the phrase with “meet its mission.”

Katherine Carnell, educational administration and higher education graduate student, suggested the word “severance” be changed to “a separate hearing,” in Section D “Procedural Standards.”

“It could be hard (for students) to understand,” she said. “I wouldn’t exactly know what to do.”

Geoffrey Steinberg, associate professor in the Department of Management and Information Systems, wasn’t in favor of language changes.

“I’m concerned that we have a tendency to over-simplify language,” he said, noting many students lack the vocabulary necessary for a university setting.

However, changes extended past language.

Flynn said he considered dropping the second half of the policy in Section D-6 “Due Process Rights,” which defines the rules for two parties filing charges.

According to the statement, “No counter charges regarding the same incident shall be permitted to be filed pending final disposition of the original charge.”

Under this policy, an accused party must wait for a final decision on the charge before he or she can make a counter charge.

The problem, Steinberg said, is that by changing the policy, the committee may be changing judicial procedure.

“I think people should have the right to defend themselves,” he said. “I just want to make sure that whatever is done here is consistent with the law.”

The committee also discussed new ways to make the rules available to students. Typically, hard copies of the digest are sent out to students each year and discussed during freshman orientation. A copy of the policies is also available on the Internet.

However, Flynn said the online version is hard to navigate.

“If it takes me 10 minutes, how long do you think it would take a parent?” he asked.

Steinberg said one of his information systems classes could develop a more user-friendly online guide as a fall semester project.

Flynn said the digest will not officially be changed until the end of the semester.

Contact general assignment reporter Amadeus Smith at [email protected].

Some other items covered during the Student Rights and Standards Committee meeting included:

• Closed hearings becoming open to the public

• University policies for off-campus offenses

• Student comprehension of plagiarism

• Stronger focus on computer misuse