April 29, 2008

New Campus Code Gets Skorton’s Nod

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The Campus Code of Conduct is quickly passing the remaining hurdles on its way to final implementation. Yesterday, in a letter to Rodney Orme, employee chair of the University Assembly, President David Skorton endorsed the current version of the Code.
“I look forward to working with the Judicial Administrator to employ law students in the prosecution of violations to the Code,” Skorton wrote.
The letter — which came just five days after the U.A. re-passed the code — further thanked the Codes and Judicial Committee and the U.A. for their many hours of work in helping to revise the Code since Skorton first rejected it in February.
Andrew Cowan, vice-chair of the CJC, said that Skorton’s passing of the Code this time around did not come as a surprise.
[img_assist|nid=30314|title=Timeline of the Campus Code Process|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]“We didn’t make a lot of changes since the last draft, so he was familiar with it,” Cowan said. He added that, “any changes that we made were done alongside his staff.”
The U.A. passed the CJC last fall, but Skorton sent it back to the drawing board two months ago citing a number of issues. Controversy erupted between those who had been involved in the revision and Skorton’s office because they felt that he had undermined the groups’ work.
“One source of frustration was that that we had to do all this work. We wish that Skorton had been involved from a much earlier stage,” Cowan said.
He added that Jim Mingle, University counsel, is an ex-officio participant on the CJC for the purpose of alerting Skorton when he should get involved in the revision process. Thus, Cowan asserted that Skorton had no excuse not to have asserted his opinions at an earlier stage.
The revisions that took place since Skorton rejected the previous draft came in two parts.
The first issue that was appended relates to the right of a charged Cornellian to have an attorney. If suspension or expulsion is a possibility, the right to an attorney is intact. However, if there is no possibility of the student having to take a leave of absence, an attorney may be present, but is unable to speak.
The second alteration — at the insistence of Skorton — allows for appeals by either the J.A. or the accused student in cases involving violence or threats. If either party believes the decision is too lenient or too harsh, he or she has the option of bringing the case to the president.
The final step in the implementation of the code is the approval by the Board of Trustees. According to Cowan, New York State law mandates that the Board must approve any changes to the Code that deal with public order.
Kate Duch ’09, student trustee and ex-officio member of the U.A., believes the Board of Trustees will approve the Code without dispute.
“The process of revising the Code of Conduct has been a good example of the way that shared governance should work within a university,” she said. “While the process would have been smoother if the Cornell administration had participated in the discussions earlier, the Code of Conduct was reviewed and approved by all of the various stakeholders: students, faculty, staff and administrators.”