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New Student Government committee to consider Conduct Code

A new Student Government subcommittee will look to critique and offer changes to the Student Conduct Code. Named the Student Conduct Code Oversight and Review Committee (SCCORC), the group was formally established last semester, and its chair and founder, Harrison Ransley, was elected by the Student Senate earlier this semester.

A major focus of the group, Ransley said, is to hear personal stories from students who have some form of experience dealing with the Conduct Code. SCCORC — composed of senators and executives from Student Government alongside other members of the student body — will then interpret trends and produce a report of suggested changes to the code before an official institutional review tentatively scheduled for this summer.

“We know that can be pretty personal and can be pretty tough on students, so we found an attorney who will be redacting information … they deal with stuff like this all the time,” Ransley said. “What we’re looking to do is set up an email, and if anyone has any anonymous information they would want to drop off, it would go through him.”

According to its policy statement, the Student Conduct Code’s purpose is to “promote the pursuit of activities that contribute to the intellectual, ethical, and physical development of the individuals under the auspices of the University of Maine System.”

In action, the code is akin to a set of rules for students, staff, faculty and administrators who are associated with the System or its seven campuses. The judicial and enforcement mechanism for violations of the code is the Student Conduct Code Committee, a separate entity from SCCORC that hears cases, adjudicates on disputes and doles out punishments.

Each Student Conduct Code Committee is comprised of enrolled students, faculty and staff members, all of whom are identified by the respective president.

“I’m not trying to say that the Student Conduct Code messes up all of the time,” Ransley said. “I believe that it gets the thing right most of the time. But there a decent amount of instances where it’s like, ‘hey that’s pretty questionable, let’s do something about it.’”

The Conduct Code was last revised by the Student Conduct Code Review Board and accepted by the board of trustees in March of 2018. To Ransley’s knowledge, the revisions, which went into effect July 1, 2018, were never formally presented to UMaine students.

According to the code, however, there is no mechanism by which student bodies on University of Maine System campuses need to vote to ratify changes.

“Everyone involved with the process — from those who review and develop the Code to those who administer it or hear appeals — have student interests, student development, and community safety as their primary concern,” according to Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Robert Dana. “The conduct process helps assure a safe campus while encouraging students to be safe.”

The Student Conduct Code Review Board must meet at least once every three years but can meet more when requested by officers representing at least two campuses, student government officers from at least two campuses or the chancellor of the System.

Dana noted that, from serving on review panels to hearing committees, students are crucial to the implementation and review of the Conduct Code.

“The goal of the student conduct process is educative not punitive, and this tenet is fundamental to our approach in administering the Student Conduct Code,” Dana said. “We also believe that this approach makes a difference in that we have a safe and positive campus life and the majority of students who interact with the conduct process once don’t typically get involved with the process again.”

Cameron Bowie is a fourth-year history and political science student senator who serves on the Student Senate and was involved with the founding of SCCORC. Bowie said that potential changes to the code could be aimed to protect both accusers and accused, broaden definitions and reassess the appeals process.

“Students at a Maine university deserve to have a code that fits to the standards of this state and its people,” Bowie said.

Ransley said that he was initially impulsed to create a Student Conduct Code review committee after seeing how one of his friends had to deal with a conduct case last spring. During the fall semester, he studied the Conduct Code and laid the foundation for the committee. This semester is when work began and, Ransley said, the clock is ticking to get results out before the summer.

“Peoples’ futures are on the line,” Ransley said. “I want to set this up for success. It’s worth getting every campus on board.”

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