Conduct Boards begin appointment process

Faculty, administrators and students are currently being trained to serve on student conduct boards and sexual misconduct boards. The addition of an appellate board is new for the 2015-16 school year. Qualified parties interested in serving will apply to serve on a general conduct board by Friday Nov. 20 or a sexual misconduct board by Tuesday Nov. 24 and will likely receive their appointments by the end of November.

“What will happen is we will get a pool of people who are interested and we will submit the names to the President [Denise Battles],” Director of the Center for Community and Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio said. “We will establish a group of maybe 15 students, 15 faculty members and 15 staff members … and then when a case comes up we’ll put a call out for who’s available.”

A page on the Geneseo website explains that each conduct board is comprised of one faculty member, one staff member and one student representative—each of whom has one vote. Battles will make the appointments from each group.

The boards hear only level two conduct violation cases. According to Sancilio, level one cases—which are resolved via a meeting with an individual staff member—are somewhat lower stakes than level two cases, which typically involve repeated or more serious violations.

Coordinator of Student Conduct and Community Standards Heather York largely oversees the training of interested students and the eventual formation of conduct boards. According to an email York sent to the College News listserv on Nov. 10, training sessions for students interested in serving on a general student conduct board took place on Thursday Nov. 12 and Friday Nov. 13.

York said the general training “just goes over our policies and procedures, what the board will look like … and what their job is going to be, which is figuring out whether a violation of our policy occurred and then what the most appropriate outcome or sanction is.”

York noted that she believes the hour or so of training that general board members are required to complete is enough to prepare them to make conduct decisions. “We’re sending home the message that it’s an educational process,” she said. “I think most people who serve on the boards are doing it for the right reasons.”

Senior Noah Chauvin—who has served on as many as 10 conduct boards—disagreed, however, expressing his uncertainty that the standard conduct training is comprehensive enough.

“Sitting on my first conduct board was very different from what I expected,” Chauvin said. “It was emotionally draining because we actually suspended the student for a couple of semesters and that’s a tough thing to do. And I think a lot of them are a little emotionally draining, mostly because there’s not a clear, right answer. You kind of have to go on gut instinct and what you think is going to be best for the person and the community, but that’s impossible to convey in training and there’s only a limited time to do it. So I think the only way is to kind of sit through them and see what they’re like.”

Meanwhile, Sancilio stressed the importance of recognizing conflicts of interest. “We’ll ask students, ‘Do you think you can be objective?’” he said. “And if either party says, ‘No, I’m concerned,’ we will not proceed. We want it to be as fair as possible.”

Chauvin spoke favorably of the school’s method of screening board members for conflicts of interest. “I think it is really important because it is a small campus and a lot of people do know each other,” Chauvin said. “But I will say that … I’ve never sat on one for someone that I knew, so I think they do a pretty good job making sure that they’re not having biased people there.”

In addition to the general conduct board, there is also a sexual misconduct board, which was first established last year, according to Sancilio. Serving on this board requires additional training.

York wrote in her Nov. 10 email that the sexual misconduct board training sessions involve the training of skills specific to sexual misconduct response—including trauma response—and will take place on Thursday Nov. 19 and Friday Nov. 20, each lasting about two hours. As with the standard board training, attendance at only one of these training sessions is required.

An appellate board was also created for this year in response to a new state legislation that would require Geneseo to have an appeals board option for cases involving sexual misconduct and interpersonal violence.

The appeals process has been extended to include any cases heard by a conduct board. “We loved the format and thought it was a fair process,” York said. In the past, appeals were referred to the President’s cabinet.

In the most serious cases, board decisions can result in the suspension or dismissal of the student charged with a conduct violation. Sometimes, these decisions lead to legal action.

“We have never had someone sued for service on a board, but suits related to our conduct decisions … can happen,” Sancilio said. According to Sancillio, some students are concerned that they will be personally liable for decisions they make while serving on a conduct board.

“Everybody is covered by the college; everyone falls under that umbrella,” York said. “If there were a case where an individual was sued, the college would provide that service.”

While their decisions may not necessarily be legally binding, Sancilio emphasized the importance of student representatives on conduct boards.

“Most faculty and staff know what happens between eight and five,” he said. “I don’t think we necessarily have the student perspective of what is common and what happens after hours. So a student’s perspective to me is very important because it can enlighten others who may not have that specific type of knowledge.”