This information is presented to assist students with questions they may have about a Community Judicial Board and the judicial process for an alleged violation of Conduct that is Offensive. It is designed to answer general questions. Students should consult the Student Handbook for more definitive information. In all cases, the Student Handbook and similar college publications are the authoritative source for college policies.
1. What does the provision of Conduct that is Offensive under Prohibited Conduct entail?
The Code of Student Conduct identifies behavior that is offensive, not respectful and is voluntary (specifically noted in Conduct that is Offensive). Specifically it is behavior of a kind which targets specific individuals because of race, sex, color, religious creed, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. The provision states that the offensiveness of such behavior should be measured by its gravity, whether it is repeated even after the student engaging in the behavior has been clearly told that it is offensive to another, and by the effect the behavior has on the community and the student or students to whom it is directed.
2. What is the history leading up to the establishment of the provision (Conduct that is Offensive) and the addition of community members to the Judicial Board?
The establishment of the provision and the addition of community members to the Judicial Board was to replace the Committee on Bias Complaints. The Committee on Bias Complaints was established to respond to incidents of alleged bias, which at that time, were not incidents ordinarily handled by the Judicial Board.
A committee of students, faculty and student affairs administrators chaired by Professor John Connolly met during the spring of 2006 to discuss the future of the Bias Complaints Committee. Their report can be read at http://www.smith.edu/oid/. The committee recommended that the Bias Complaints Committee be replaced by a process that addressed discrimination and harassment and that it be consistent with other processes that exist on campus for staff and faculty. After much discussion the success of the judicial board in handling student behavior issues was an important reason for folding complaints such as those described in the provision into the Code of Student Conduct and making them reviewable by the Judicial Board. Adding community members to the Judicial Board in this instance was suggested in recognition that these behaviors often have implications for the larger Smith community and the perspective of faculty and staff members would be valuable to the results.
3. How does the provision fit in into the usual College Judicial Board procedures?
A student/faculty/staff board will convene when a violation of the provision calls for a formal judicial complaint process. An investigation conducted by the Dean of Religious Life will take place before the actual hearing - findings will be presented to the Judicial Board as part of the hearing process. The Judicial Board will include four (4) Smith community members in addition to the usual five (5) student board members. With the exception of the four community members, the hearing procedures and the deliberations process will be identical to a regular Judicial Board hearing. The only difference in the pre-hearing procedures would be the implementation of a formal investigation of the complaint.
4. Do the faculty and staff members have more weight than the student board members?
No, the faculty and staff members have equal weight in providing their opinions, comments, and suggestions during the hearing procedure and the deliberations process. The addition of the four members is to ensure that all voices of the Smith Community are evenly represented when adjudicating on cases relating to the provision.
5. Since the provision does not include social class or political affiliation, what should a student do if social class or political affiliation is the basis of offensive, not respectful and voluntary behavior of a kind which targets her? Can she bring a complaint to JB under the provision of the Code of Student Conduct?
Any student who believes that her social class or political affiliation is the basis of offensive or disrespectful behavior targeting her is strongly encouraged to contact the Dean of Students or the Dean of Religious Life.
Social class is a central element of diversity as recognized by the Smith College Common Ground Project; Project participants expressed a commitment to addressing this issue through the educational initiatives of the college.
After careful consideration social class and political affiliation were not included in the bases for a complaint which may be brought to the Judicial Board under the provision. The discussions on this issue included the following points. First, in determining a basis for bringing a complaint to Judicial Board there was a desire to have a policy similar to the complaint procedures that apply to others in the Smith community – faculty and staff. The faculty grievance process and the staff Equal Opportunity Policy do not include social class and political affiliation as bases for a complaint. Second, there is a limitation to the effectiveness of the Judicial Board process in dealing with controversial topics that may result in interpersonal conflicts over class and politics. The Code of Student Conduct attempts to review behavior which is easily and readily understood to be unacceptable at Smith as well as in society at large. Thus the provision does not make the judicial process available for conflicts which are better handled through mediation, educational programming, and consultation with others in the community.
6. Why do we need this in the Smith community?
Smith is committed to promoting all forms of diversity and fostering a community of mutual respect, tolerance, and integrity, for individual differences, which are critical to the success and enrichment of the institution. However, we realize that attempts at informal resolution relating to these differences may not always be successful or sufficient. Furthermore, while the Code of Student Conduct emphasizes the importance of respect and tolerance for differences, it does not explicitly state this concern in the Prohibited Conducts list, which may be problematic when a formal judicial complaint process is needed to intervene in the conflict. The establishment of the Conduct that is Offensive provision thus reinforces Smith’s commitment to diversity and holds community members who proceed with such unacceptable actions accountable to their behavior.