Jurisdictional Issues

Throughout the history of the Harvey Mudd College student judicial system, there have always been questions about the jurisdictions of the various courts that existed. It appears that in the beginning, the Honor Code was intended mainly to apply to academic aspects of life on campus, but this expanded to apply to all aspects of life on campus.

The first two-court system appears to be an attempt to get all of the serious cases heard by the Judiciary Board, while petty cases can be tried by the more general Student Court. This system clearly didn't work out well, since it was replaced very quickly. Part of the explanation for this may stem from the fact that dorms no longer seem to levy as many fines as they did in the past, and it may also be true that as the college aged, the administration made more rules, eliminating the need for dormitory and ASHMC rules.

The dual board structure seen in place today arose from a perceived need to separate academic and non-academic systems. I believe that, in many ways, this has failed. The current perception of students involved in the Honor Board is that the Honor Code applies to more than situations in which academic integrity is at risk, but also to situations on the residential side of campus that reduce the integrity of the community. One example of this is that in the past few years, cases involving offensive posters have usually been heard by the Judiciary Board, rather than the Disciplinary Board. The current distinction between the Judiciary Board and Disciplinary Board is that the Disciplinary Board hears cases in which there are written rules, while the Judiciary Board hears cases in which Honor Code violations occur.

In many cases, it appears that both of these instances have occurred. In such cases, the current rules require a board that's about twice as large to hear the case. This can cause scheduling nightmares for the chairs.

Another jurisdictional issue that has come up in the past few years is when the Sexual Harassment Peer Counselors and Grievance Board has jurisdiction over a case. Due to the way that the college must have a policy for preventing sexual harassment under current law, this board must act in certain ways that don't necessarily match up with the ways in which the Honor Board currently operates. Unfortunately, this creates a problem when a case involves sexual harassment as well as other violations of the honor code or disciplinary code.

Closed Trials

I am unconvinced of the necessity of opening trials and releasing information to the public. I believe that the important question to ask is what right the plaintiffs and defendants have to privacy. Those who are arguing for opening all cases by default are arguing that students don't have any such right to privacy, and that we shouldn't be giving them such privacy when other members of the community want or need to know what's going on.

In some cases, it seems necessary to release some information regarding cases to the general college community. As I outlined above in the section regarding changes considered by the current council, I believe that the administration should have released some sort of statement after the initial analysis of the allegedly explosive material was conducted.

In other cases, it seems more prudent to protect the confidentiality of the involved individuals. For example, in cases where a professor accuses a student of cheating, it may make sense to protect the privacy of both individuals involved. The confidentiality of the current system protects students who are found guilty and later learn from their mistakes. If their indiscretions become more widely known, they may be subject to more careful scrutinization from professors in the future. Publishing a list of people convicted of cheating on tests and plagiarizing their homework could cause these people to be the target of harassment in the future, even if they change their evil ways. Additionally, the current system involving confidentiality makes more professors comfortable bringing cases to the Judiciary Board, and anything that lets us continue our tradition of self-government is a good thing.

In 1963, ASHMC Council decided to look into exactly the same question (ASHMC Minutes, Jan 7, 1963). Unfortunately, the minutes state only that the Council decided that no such amendment was necessary (ASHMC Minutes, Feb 18, 1963). It does not appear that there are minutes in the ASHMC Archive detailing the deliberations of this committee, so we may never know the reasons they came to this decision.

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