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Davis, California

Sunday, June 16, 2024

The students’ voice in Judicial Affairs

Stealing a bluebook from the campus bookstore can cost you $200. Writing in your bluebook after the exam time has expired can get you a referral from your professor. These are the rules – the shadowy restrictions that tell us what we can and can’t do for just about anything.

And Campus Judicial Board, a group of 12 students working under Student Judicial Affairs, has the job of educating the public about those rules, and when necessary, enforcing them through hearings and sanctions.

Prior to 1976, students operated on a self-enforced Honor Code that had been in place since 1911. Professors and teaching assistants would leave the room during testing, and the burden rested on individual students to report cheating and other ethical violations.

As UC Davis’ population expanded rapidly, larger class sizes correlated with increased levels of cheating. Both students and faculty felt the Honor Code was no longer adequate, and eventually, a proposal was made to create a new disciplinary process which involved faculty and administration while retaining student involvement. This idea was passed by student vote in 1976. It was from this new agreement that CJB was created.

“If CJB wasn’t there, our whole disciplinary process would be unapproachable because it would just be faculty members – there would be no student voice. Our purpose is to add that element,” said Amanda Gao, a first-year board member and managerial economics major.

The idea of student involvement is crucial. If an individual is referred for violating the Code of Academic Conduct, they are sent to an SJA officer, who meets with them to clearly define the facts of the incident, and, if necessary, the appropriate sanctions. In the majority of cases, students agree with the officer and sign a contract stating agreed upon facts and punishments.

“You cannot unilaterally apply a sanction – a student will agree to anything they receive,” explained Mark Waylonis, a senior physics major beginning his third year on the board.

CJB members also conduct follow-up meetings with students and gather input from their experiences. The meetings are also a chance for the student to ask any questions he or she may have. The entire process is meant to be impartial, fair and respectful of the rights of the student.

Consequently, individuals have the right to disagree as well. In those few cases where the facts or sanctions are disputed, a formal disciplinary hearing is held. The panel is comprised of two board members and one faculty member. After hearing statements from parties involved in the case, the board recommends a sanction, which can range anywhere from a simple censure, to suspension and even dismissal.

Throughout the process, an additional board member is often assigned as an adviser. An adviser informs the student of their rights, explains the procedures, and even makes statements to the panel on the student’s behalf.

It is important to balance being able to relate with students and upholding professional conduct.

“If [a student was] referred and found in violation, you have to balance empathy with knowing that, at some point, rules have to be upheld,” said Jennifer Binger, a junior history and international relations double major beginning her second year on the board.

“It’s our goal to make sure the process is fair, to make sure that our procedures are standard and [to make sure] all students get the same treatment,” Gao added.

But meting out punishment is just the tip of the iceberg – CJB members spend far more time working on outreach programs designed to increase student awareness of fair and ethical conduct. This year, the board has plans to make presentations to first-year students in the dorms, and to international and transfer students. Tabling has also received new emphasis, and members try to have a constant presence across from the ASCUD Coffee House

“We are really trying to focus on one on one interaction with students; we want to show that there are students who care about the rules here at Davis. It’s not just SJA who is enforcing it, but it’s up to the students to enforce the rules as well here at UC Davis – [this] is part of our honor code,” Waylonis said.

The idea is simple: Getting students to learn more about academic integrity and the consequences of cheating will lower the number of people who cheat and are referred.

“We rather see people at our tabling events than in our office,” Gao said.

In addition to tabling and presentations to student groups, CJB also works on a media project each year which is played on the Student Housing channel in the dorms (last year’s project involved a skit between “Integrity Man” and “Ms. Manners”). Beginning last year, CJB has also worked with ASUCD to conduct an essay contest on the meaning integrity. Winners of the contest can receive scholarships of up to $500.

Members understand nobody wants to visit the CJB. But for the 12 students who comprise it, integrity and justice are not just buzz-words, but fundamental values.

“[Cheating] affects you as a person … and it affects the reputation of Davis as a whole. CJB was created to benefit students, and to benefit the interest of justice. We are not there to be negative towards students; we are there to serve as a student voice in the [disciplinary] process, and to provide a perspective the whole system might not have otherwise,” Binger said.

Campus Judicial Board is located on the third floor of Dutton Hall. It can be reached at sja.ucdavis.edu/cjb, or at 752-1128. Prospective new members are encouraged to obtain an application through the website.

ANDRE LEE can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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