Student court seeks to spread awareness
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 22:09
Miami University students who have broken university rules have the opportunity to stand before a student court of their peers.
According to student court member senior Michael Woeste, Miami’s student court hears and rules only on cases for which the student cannot be suspended.
“The student court basically handles cases of non-suspendable offenses that occur either on or off campus,” Woeste said. “They usually range from alcohol possession, drug possession, to intoxication or the negative effects associated with intoxication.”
Chris Taylor, associate director of ethics and conflict resolution and the student court’s formal advisor, said students who commit non-suspendable offenses at Miami have the option of choosing either an administrative court or the student court to hear their case during the judicial process.
Senior Kaleigh Lambert said she didn’t know about Miami’s student court, but that she would choose it if she ever found herself in the middle of the judiciary process.
“I would much rather go through students than administrators,” Lambert said. “[Students] know what you’re going through.”
Because students may not be aware of Miami’s student court, the group is trying to spread the word with residence hall programs and classroom presentations, Taylor said.
Woeste, who is serving as the court’s educational outreach officer this year, said the group hopes to make students more aware of the court’s role on campus.
“I think a lot of the time students are not aware the student court exists until an incident occurs,” Woeste said. “And that’s what we’re trying to change.”
According to Taylor, members of the student court are well-trained to hear student cases.
“They all have received extensive training on how to hear those cases—what our practices are within the university conduct system, what sanctions might apply to different circumstances, if we have any mandatory minimum sanctions—they’re all well-versed in those,” Taylor said.
The student court tries to consider all the factors of an incident when hearing a student’s case, according to Woeste.
“It’s essentially taking a holistic approach: what happened, why it happened and how we can make the student a better student or get the student the help they need, so they can become a positive member in the Miami University student community,” he said.
According to Taylor, becoming a member of the student court is fairly competitive. With 18 student justices making up the court, about half of the members generally return each year. Usually there are 40 to 50 students applying each year for the nine or ten available spots on the court, Taylor said.
Students on the student court must embody various qualities to make them good candidates, Taylor said.
“We’re looking at people who are critical thinkers,” Taylor said. “People who understand the importance of making these hard decisions, people who understand being professional and being compassionate to their fellow students, but again, still holding them accountable.”
Woeste said the student court isn’t out to get students who make mistakes, but seeks to help them.
“It’s not about punishment,” Woeste said. “It’s about making sure students get the help they need and can walk away from the experience knowing that their university is there for them, and to help them through these difficult situations that all of us are encountered with.”