The Pomona College Judiciary Council, popularly referred to as “J-Board,” may be one of the most influential yet least understood student groups on campus. Student panelists on J-Board are charged with fairly, yet effectively, enforcing the Pomona College Student Code, the set of rules maintained by the Student Affairs Committee (SAC). Sometimes that means assigning punishments which may seem harsh, but all sanctions are assigned in order to help the student body by making Pomona’s campus safer.
Despite its importance, J-Board’s administrators have not always made it easy for students to figure out just what we're all about. We, the student chairs of J-Board, will use this article to walk through what J-Board does and how it does it.
One thing to know from the outset is that, while we can’t be a completely transparent organization (due to confidentiality concerns), anyone is free to ask chairs questions about J-Board. We truly care about being an organization that addresses issues which affect all students, which is why we have a diverse group of students on our Council.
To understand the precise role of our student-run judiciary, it is necessary to know what the Judiciary Council does and does not have jurisdiction over. Drugs and alcohol commonly play a part in cases, but that does not mean, for example, that your average marijuana violation is investigated and adjudicated by the Judiciary Council.
In fact, most common code violations are handled by the deans of the college and the RAs. It is only when a student wishes to contest the charge, or when a less common violation is involved, that the student will participate in a judiciary panel. Drinking underage by itself will mostly likely not bring you in front of the Judiciary Council; refusing to hand the RA your beer probably will. In general, violations that are not contested and which have explicitly assigned sanctions (usually a fine, or, in the future, “points”) never make it to the Judiciary Council. J-Board does not hear cases regarding sexual misconduct.
Student and faculty administrators know that going to J-Board can be an extremely stressful experience for students. As such, one of our main foci is confidentiality, something we recognize as an imperative component of the judicial process, especially at a school of this size. Methods for keeping confidentiality as well as the importance of doing so are covered at every training and before every panel, and all panelists and chairs sign a confidentiality agreement before participating in panels.
These are responsibilities which most colleges throughout the country do not entrust to the students. Most colleges require a combination of students, faculty, and staff to serve on panels, whereas Pomona’s Judiciary Council is designed to ensure that students are heard by a panel of their peers. This last point merits emphasis, especially since many Pomona students do not know that our Judiciary Council is entirely student-run.
J-Board chairs often hear from students who are concerned that our Judiciary Council is controlled by the administration. This couldn’t be further from the truth! J-Board panelists are selected each year through an open application process conducted by the previously selected student chairs, who are also selected by previous student chairs (and SAC members). The application process, from the creation of the application itself to the interviews and decision-making process, is conducted entirely by these student chairs based on the provisions of the Student Code, without input or interference from the advising deans or any faculty administrator. This ensures that the selection of panelists is entirely student-run.
Further, Council deliberations are conducted in a closed session in which any non-Judiciary Council person’s presence is explicitly forbidden. These provisions ensure that the Council’s decisions are based entirely on the provisions of the Student Code within a process that is completely independent, student-determined, and at no time influenced by the administration.
Decisions made by Judiciary Council panels can only be changed through an appeals process (which also goes through students) or, in extreme circumstances, by the president of the college. Having served on many cases throughout our time at Pomona, we are convinced that students are the ones who best know the norms of our community and what is necessary to keep it functioning.
Our ultimate goal is to ensure that we create a safe environment for the Pomona College community by maintaining community standards, upholding our student code, and fostering a fair and consistent process. If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns, please email Lexi Davis PO '16 at Jera.Davis@Pomona.edu
Lexi Davis PO '16 majors in Economics and is the Chair of the Pomona Colllege Judiciary Council and a swimmer on the Pomona Pitzer Swim and Dive team. Daniel Tan PO '16 majors in Economics and is an Associate Chair of the Judiciary Council. Anna Schwab PO '16 majors in PPA/Politics and is an Associate Chair of the Judiciary Council.