Founded during the 1999-2000 academic year, the Residential Judicial Council was created as a way for students encourage their peers to uphold community standards. However, for the past decade, the council has been a weak and poorly publicized disciplinary body adjudicating only the Code of Conduct violations that hall directors chose to forward to it. Last summer, Residential Life suspended the RJC, without student input, in order to reassess the program. When it does return next year, the council should be independent of hall directors and have a broader purview.
The RJC suffered from two fundamental problems that must be addressed during the re-assessment period: Residence Life did not dedicate itself to recruiting council members each year, and the body was entirely dependent on hall directors for cases. In recent years, they have blatantly neglected the program—the front page of the RJC’s website still invites students to apply to be a Fall 2008 council member—and as a result, very few students or residential advisers even knew that the RJC even existed.
Beyond a lack of institutional support, the RJC also suffered from a lack of independent authority. Because council members only ruled on cases that hall directors decided to forward to them, the RJC offered a façade of student involvement that was in reality wholly dependent on the whim of Residence Life’s hall directors. Hall directors often did not want to forward cases to the council because it meant more work for them, even though the RJC had the staff available to rule on the case. In the future, hall directors must commit to forwarding all appropriate cases, such as Category A violations and certain Category B violations, to the RJC, or they should no longer have the sole authority to decide what cases the RJC sees.
When the RJC reemerges, its authority must be transformed. There has never been a shortage of students ready to serve on the RJC, despite the lack of campus awareness of its existence. However, students can’t really hold each other responsible for Code of Conduct violations until they are empowered by the University to do so.