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Davis, California

Friday, September 24, 2021

More than one way to get in trouble with SJA

Students dread hearing they have been referred to the Student Judicial Board, but few actually understand the process that follows.

The accused are afforded due process, said SJA Director Jeanne Wilson. The student is sent a notice of the information SJA has received, and is then allowed to respond to the allegations in order to ensure a fair resolution.

“Students are terrified of formal hearings, but they don’t understand that they’re [necessary] to protect their rights,” Wilson said.

With 26 years at SJA under her belt, Wilson admits that she did not originally see herself in this field. After acquiring her law degree at USC and practicing law in Southern California, Wilson saw an ad for the position and thought it could fulfill her interest in higher education.

Campus Judicial Board advisor Sheila Harrington shares a similar story.

Previously the dean of students at a private boarding school, Harrington came to work at the CJB somewhat unexpectedly in Spring of 2002.

“I kind of fell into the work I do [now] later in life,” Harrington said. “It’s not like I grew up thinking I wanted to be a disciplinarian.”

As advisor of the CJB, which consists of both students and faculty, Harrington oversees many cases herself.

One common infraction she mentioned is a rising trend in plagiarism.

Academic infractions comprise roughly 600 of the total SJA referrals, one-third of which are plagiarisms, Wilson said. Another 8 percent are for cheating on exams, while approximately 20 percent are for academic collaboration.

When asked about her most memorable case of academic misconduct, Wilson cited a case of plagiarism.

“Years ago, this guy submitted a paper [that was] 10 pages verbatim from a published article. When he got caught, he explained that it was ‘just a draft.’ And what’s worse is he wanted to get into the grad program to work with the faculty member that he plagiarized from,” she said.

Also on the rise is the number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act violations Harrington observes. DMCA violations occur when students download media illegally or access P2P file-sharing software while utilizing campus Internet services.

“If you download for private use illegally, then it’s a crime,” Harrington said. “But if you’re using a [file-sharing] program, like Limewire, then you become a distributor and [that’s] a big deal.”

Also frequent are social infractions, Wilson said. These include everything from public drunkenness and underage drinking to grand theft and assault.

Among social misconduct referrals, 159 involved theft, 96 involved alcohol-use, and 61 involved drug-use (primarily marijuana), said SJA Associate Director Donald Dudley. However, according to Dudley, the alcohol- and drug-related offenses are likely underreported as Student Housing has their own process for dealing with such violations.

Like the SJA staff, student members of the CJB seek to decrease these numbers by bringing a peer perspective to students who break the rules.

By organizing outreach and prevention activities for freshmen and transfer students, the CJB hopes to raise awareness and educate students about integrity and the value of discipline.

“People think we’re the bad guys, but we’re here to help the students develop into better citizens,” said Jade Corpus, junior managerial economics major and CJB member.

When asked about the most unique infraction she has seen, Corpus gave two examples.

“One where this person got referred for taking more than one piece of fruit out of the DC. [And the other], I think someone stole a table from the DC, or something like that,” she said.

Harrington said fostering a student’s ability to change is her favorite part of the job.

“Whenever somebody gets into trouble, [there is] an opportunity to grow ethically and to develop maturity,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to facilitate that.”

Wilson agreed that the prospect for transformation is rewarding.

“I really like working with students,” Wilson said. “I like being a part of getting people back on track and giving them [another] chance to be proud of what they accomplish here at Davis.”

The SJA reported 1,178 total referrals last academic year. However, Harrington estimated that nearly 95 percent of cases were resolved informally.

In addition, Dudley approximated that at least 80 percent of cases resulted in an admission of guilt and/or a sanction, while the rest were dismissed due to a lack of evidence or the alleged violator’s innocence.

There have been 436 violations reported thus far in the 2009-2010 academic year.

KYLE SPORLEDER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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