UC Berkeley News


Student Code of Conduct revised
Old code encouraged an inappropriately ‘adversarial’ process

| 19 January 2005

UC Berkeley has introduced a revised Student Code of Conduct that seeks to better reflect campus values of civility, academic pursuit, and mutual respect. The new code reduces the role of outside advocates or attorneys during student disciplinary hearings and makes changes to the hearing process to promote the open exchange of information and lessen the likelihood of delays.

Genaro Padilla (Peg Skorpinski photo)
The revisions are part of an effort to make the student disciplinary process less adversarial, and more in tune with the university’s role as an educational institution, said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Genaro Padilla.

“We thought it was important, in a university setting, for students to speak for themselves,” Padilla said. “We wanted to make students responsible for themselves in a way that engenders a more ideal community of scholars.”

The Berkeley Campus Student Code of Conduct lays out expectations for student behavior in a variety of areas, ranging from academic dishonesty to physical or sexual abuse or harassment and disturbing the peace. Claimed violations of the code are investigated and, if appropriate, resolved through either an informal process or, if the accused student chooses, a formal administrative hearing. Sanctions, such as community service, letters of apology, counseling, or additional coursework, may be imposed to discourage future violations and educate students about appropriate behavior. Sanctions for more serious violations can include suspension or dismissal from the university.

The revised Berkeley code has four key changes from the previous version. The first is a modification of the role an accused student’s adviser or attorney can play in the student-conduct process. Students retain the right to have one adviser, hired at their own expense, to guide them through the disciplinary process and accompany them to hearings. However, under the new code, students are expected to speak for themselves at the formal disciplinary hearing; the adviser can speak on the student’s behalf at the hearing only with the consent of the hearing panel.

“What we saw was that the student-conduct process had produced an adversarial process that pitted students against the administration,” much like the regular civil-court system, said Padilla, who co-chaired the review committee that drafted the code revisions. “In the university community, we expect a set of standards that are in tune with those of the larger community, but we really are focused on academics and engagement between students, and between students and faculty.”

The other three major changes to the conduct rules all pertain to the hearing process. They introduce a pre-hearing conference to clarify ground rules for the hearing, require both parties to supply a written brief of their case to the other side before the formal hearing, and change the procedure for questioning witnesses to allow the accused student to choose — before the hearing begins — whether to have follow-up questions asked by the parties themselves or by the hearing panel.

Finally, the revised code changes the definition of what days are counted to fulfill the code’s various deadlines. The old code used the term “working days,” which counted only days when the campus had classes in session during fall or spring terms. Under the new code, any day when the university is open is counted, a definition that excludes only weekends and university holidays. That lessens the chance that a disciplinary case from the spring will get dragged over until the following fall term.

Campus officials said the changes to the code are part of the normal revision process that takes place every few years for rules governing student conduct on University of California campuses. The revision begins with a systemwide review of conduct rules by the UC Office of the President, which passes its changes down to the 10 UC campuses. The campuses then adjust their individual codes of conduct to remain aligned with the systemwide code, as well as to address any campus-specific issues.

At Berkeley, the revision process began nearly two years ago with a committee of faculty, students and staff, who reviewed the existing code and UCOP’s changes and recommended a series of revisions to then-Chancellor Robert Berdahl. Those changes were vetted by an Academic Senate panel, top administrators, UC Berkeley General Counsel Mike Smith, and UCOP, resulting in further modifications before the final language went into effect for the spring 2005 term.

The full text of the revised Code of Student Conduct is online at students.berkeley.edu/uga/conduct.asp. Printed copies are available from Student Judicial Affairs (326 Sproul Hall), the Office of Student Life (102 Sproul Hall), Judicial Affairs and Compliance, Office of Student Development (2610 Channing Way), and the Student Advocate’s Office (204 Eshleman Hall).