October 17, 2002

Review Gives J.A. Feedback

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Last week, the Cornell University Judicial Administrator’s (J.A.) office experienced what its like to be on the defendant’s side of the table.

Beginning last Wednesday, the J.A. underwent an external review, in which individuals outside the Cornell community were invited to gather feedback and provide the J.A. with an honest appraisal of its operations.

The review, initiated by the JA’s office itself, was intended as a “self-check,” to insure “Cornell’s disciplinary process is meeting the needs of the community,” according to Mary Beth Grant, Cornell University judicial administrator.

Grant continued, “its healthy to do some self-reflection and to get some feedback.”

The reviewers included the J.A. from Rutgers University and the director of the Office of Student Conduct from the University of Pennsylvania. According to Grant, her office invited officials from the University of Pennsylvania particularly because of the similarities in size and character between Cornell and it’s fellow Ivy League institution.

Both schools have a J.A. style disciplinary system, which Grant noted is somewhat uncommon amongst Ivy League universities. Often, deans themselves carry out the disciplinarian duties instead.

To prepare the evaluation, reviewers met with about 30 members of the Cornell community, including students, faculty and staff.

Respondents included members of the University Assembly, the Student Assembly and representatives of various administrative departments including campus life and the office of fraternity and sorority affairs, according to Grant.

Grant said initial feedback from the reviewers was limited but a full and official report is expected in November. However, she did note that the reviewers remarked on the volume of comments.

“[Respondents] had a lot of different ideas, covering a variety of topics and perspectives,” Grant said.

Kathleen Rourke, former chair of the code and judicial committee of the University Assembly, met with the reviewers.

In her one-on-one interview, she spoke about the judicial process and the codes at the University.

Rourke felt the reviewers “didn’t come with an agenda … they were just interested in understanding how the pieces of the system work together.”

The review of the process will hopefully provide some insights into Cornell’s judicial administration system, Grant said.

Entering her fourth year as J.A., and faced with an increasing caseload and a smaller staff, Grant hopes the viewpoint of a “fresh set of eyes” will benefit the operation of the J.A.

Archived article by Michael Dickstein