Yesterday, when the campus sorted through its daily flood of e-mails, there was an especially important one waiting. Each student received the Judicial Board (J-Board) and Student Sexual Assault and Misconduct Board's (SSAMB) 2009-2010 Annual Report. The document details each of the cases that came before the boards during the last academic year.
It is a group of our peers that considers the alleged violations of the College's Academic Honor Code and Social Code and determines the consequences, passing them along to the dean's office for final approval.
What some students may not realize, however, is that each violation does not have a fixed punishment predetermined by College policy. Instead, the J-Board and the SSAMB adhere to precedent: Each year's rulings contribute to the basis by which future cases will be judged. Along with the facts of the case at hand, the board carefully considers its predecessors' recommendations in similar circumstances going five, or even 10, years back.
We should familiarize ourselves with the outcomes of our peers' mistakes because their verdicts will determine ours should we find our integrity or conduct called into question.
We should all carefully read the report. It is not long, but it speaks volumes about the constantly evolving treatment of "conduct which is unbecoming of a Bowdoin student." There are painful redundancies; the J-Board could easily have plagiarized its own case summaries from previous years' reports while crafting the 2009-2010 version. These repetitions serve as necessary reminders that Bowdoin students can make poor decisions. Thus, we ignore our predecessors' mistakes at our own peril.
And for the sake of future students, let us not be passive readers. Considering the nature of this system, it is important that the student body react to the precedents set yesterday; they will affect those who come after us.
If there is strong support for or opposition to a ruling, the boards should know about it. We encourage students to voice opinions about these annual reports, and the boards should take these opinions into account as one piece in future recommendations.
Share your opinions. The more dialogue there is, the more likely it is that the boards' verdicts will be in accordance with students' views.
Perhaps in contrast with—or because of—their great power, the J-Board and the SSAMB are opaque bodies. Students are mostly blind to the experience of the boards' proceedings until they undergo them. The annual report provides a rare opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with the potential outcome of their missteps. It is crucial that we take advantage of what is currently a once-a-year opportunity.
We request that the J-Board produce reports on a semesterly, rather than a yearly, basis. We believe this change would benefit those students most unfamiliar with school policy: first years. Currently, a whole year passes before first years encounter a report referring to students and situations they are familiar with.
By releasing the report at the conclusion of every semester, the J-Board can more effectively impress upon new students the gravity of violating our honor and social codes. Seeing the decisions more frequently is important for the entire student body; if students have a right to find out the verdicts of these cases, why must they wait up to a year to read them? If anything, more frequent reports would consistently remind students that breaches of our two codes do happen, and happen fairly often.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Claire Collery, Nick Daniels, Piper Grosswendt, Zoe Lescaze and Seth Walder.