The Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) have begun developing plans for a Student Judicial Board, which would act as the student government’s judicial branch. Through peer adjudication, the board would uphold standards laid out in the CMC Social Contract, a new document created by ASCMC.
“We want to adjudicate cases primarily that we on one hand do not think are worthy of harsh disciplinary action (suspension or expulsion), while on the other do need to be addressed in some manner,” wrote Zachariah Oquenda CM ’16, director of student security for ASCMC, in an email to TSL.
Oquenda developed the idea of the Student Judicial Board after a conversation he had with one of the Board of Trustee members regarding the school’s social climate.
Class of 2017 ASCMC President Cole Mora CM ’17, who helped draft the social contract, said that the Student Judicial Board would most likely deal with minor infractions that often occur at social events, such as the damage of school property. The cases heard by the board would not need to go to the Dean of Students Office; instead, the board would serve as a platform for students to hold each other accountable for promoting the values of the social contract.
According to a draft of the social contract published by ASCMC yesterday in the CMC Forum, the document calls on students to “respect all members of the 5C community,” including Campus Safety officers and Story House staff members, and to be considerate of peers’ backgrounds, beliefs, race, gender, and sexual orientation, among other expectations.
The board would have no jurisdiction over cases such as sexual misconduct or academic dishonesty.
Mora said that the board and social contract are a part of CMC’s re-evaluation of the school’s social culture. He credited CMC President Hiram Chodosh for emphasizing institutional changes to address conversations about the social climate that have been increasingly prevalent over the past two years.
“It’s all about balance,” Oquenda wrote. “We as a student body, I think, are just feeling out what the best balance is to best promote student autonomy as well as growth and development into respectable, productive members of society.”
Esther Hwang CM ’17 said that the board could have a positive impact on the social climate.
“There’s a lot of discussion going on around campus about … things such as the drinking culture and sexual assault,” she said. “I think people are trying to change a lot of it. I’m not exactly sure if [the board] will help with this, but I feel like people should be accountable for their actions, so I guess it is a good idea in that sense.”
However, she expressed concerns that the proceedings of the board could be unfair.
“I feel like there could be bias going on,” she said. “It’ll depend on whether students with misconduct are friends with people on the board, because then they’ll be obviously biased. We would have to be careful about that for the board.”
According to Oquenda, CMC had a Student Judicial Board in the 1960s, when it was still a men’s college. There is no record indicating why the board dissolved.
“We can guess that it had something to do with the climate of that time with regard to drug policy and racial tensions,” he wrote. “I do know that the more I considered how a student board would function now the more it seemed to be realistic and functional.”
Oquenda wrote that initial plans for the board are almost finished, but many details await review.
“There is much work to do,” he wrote. “I’m merely laying the groundwork for discussion, but I think it is necessary that for this board to work, the rest of the student body really needs to make this project their own.”
Mora encouraged students to get in direct contact with ASCMC leaders working on the project.
“You can get in contact with either Zachariah, Mohammad [Abdul-Rahim CM ’15], or myself, and we can absolutely refer you to the right direction,” he wrote. “We’d like to get as many people as possible on board with what we’re doing, because their success depends on the buy-in of the student body.”