The Judicial Board (J-Board) plays an essential role in the governance of the College. Charged with considering violations of the Social and Honor codes and making recommendations for appropriate punishments to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, which takes its recommendations very seriously, the J-Board is perhaps the most powerful and important student-run body on campus.
And yet, it remains one of the least visible. Nearly all students here know of the J-Board, but most know next to nothing about it. Information about its activities each year are not made available to students until the beginning of the following academic year, when it is printed on paper and distributed into students' mailboxes, destined to be discarded or lost.
Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) has the right idea when it asks the J-Board for greater transparency. But while we agree that a list of candidates should be made public prior to the confirmation of new members, BSG is on the wrong track in seeking oversight of the board's selection process. In the absence of contrary evidence, we are confident in the ability of the board to select thoughtful and capable initiates. Rather than giving BSG more power over the selection of J-Board members, we urge the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs to make the body's actions more public.
The College should create a page on its Web site for the J-Board that includes the names of its members and a current, continuously updated log of cases that the J-Board has handled. When we reviewed the J-Board's annual reports from the last few years, we were gladdened to find that the most recent report outlines most cases in more detail than in years past. This is a positive step, but a single document reporting cases that the board dealt with anywhere between three and 12 months prior is not enough.
We understand that there are legal issues in play here, which is why we are not asking for the board to disclose excessive amounts of detail about individual cases. The point of having a page on the College's Web site where information and reference materials related to the J-Board are available would not be to encourage public scrutiny of each case that comes before it; the point would be to make the body more visible?or more appropriately, less invisible.
The College is understandably reluctant to publicize the specific actions of the J-Board for privacy reasons. But we also might prefer to think that plagiarism, violence, and harassment do not happen here, because they run contrary to the mission and spirit of our community. It makes sense, therefore, that the J-Board assumes such a low profile.
But it is important that we remain honest with ourselves. The issues that the J-Board deals with are real issues in our community, and we should be able to know when lamentable events occur as they occur. We should be able to know, for instance, that the J-Board heard three more cases this past semester than it heard the whole 2001-2002 academic year. These facts reflect on our community in a very real way, and we should reflect on them as a community when they occur.
We commend the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs for being open to suggestions on how to make J-Board processes more transparent, and we hope it will consider our recommendation.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board is comprised of Bobby Guerette, Beth Kowitt, Anna Karass, Steve Kolowich, and Anne Riley.