Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Reasonable Adjustments"

As everybody who's been following this stuff is aware, UC Berkeley's Code of Student Conduct and the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) that administers it are a complete disaster. One concrete issue for which we've only just begun to scratch the surface has to do with systematically and structurally downplaying or overlooking sexual violence -- not to mention, in a number of cases, exacerbating its emotional impact on survivors. We will be following up on this in further posts.

But for now we wanted to follow up on a different thread. Another problem with OSC and the Code, which generally falls under the rubric of what's been called "the rule of the arbitrary," comes down to the fact that -- totally apart from the arbitrary uses to which pathetic OSC bureaucrats put it -- the Code enshrines the arbitrary as the basic mode of operation: "even when the Code is followed to the letter, its 'rule' is inescapably arbitrary and subject to the whims and political interests of the administration." There are two ways of making this argument: one frames it as a problem with the way the Code is written, that it contains certain unconstitutional provisions, for example, which could be resolved by re-writing them; the other sees these problems as structural, rooted in and basic to the daily operations of the neoliberal university, embedded to the point that no revisions could hope to resolve them satisfactorily. The latter formulation looks to abolish the Code and OSC, while the former looks to the administration-led Task Force that is currently working on a new set of revisions to the Code.

On this note, we've received an email that was sent by Vice Chancellor Harry Le Grande, who is heading up the Task Force, to the rest of the members, in which he proposes inserting an additional clause in order to codify a certain "flexibility" with regard to the Code. As a suggestion, he includes a provision that appears to come from the UC Santa Cruz Code of Student Conduct. Here's the email:

I would like to discuss the possibility of having a clause in the code that would allow for the process to be suspended, but still allow for due process and provisions to remain. I think it would mostly result in being used in large disciplinary cases that the normal process has little ability to impact without it being an exception.

Below is text from another UC that allows that option. I would like to discuss this at our next general meeting.

"104.32 In the interest of fair administration of these regulations and procedures, and consistent with law and university policy, the chancellor or designees may interpret and make reasonable adjustments to jurisdictional and other provisions."
This clause would codify the "rule of the arbitrary" in the Code's provisions -- it would allow the administration to do literally anything it sees fit, from suspending the timeline, to eliminating the role of the adviser, to getting rid of the student's right to remain silent. Anything you imagine would be subject to the will of the administration. That this clause is currently part of Code at UCSC is extremely worrisome, and suggests that it's not simply a case of administrative overreach that will necessarily be overruled at the next Task Force meeting. But it is exactly what we should expect, to the extent that the university claims absolute jurisdiction over both the individual student's body and the collective student body. This is the paternalistic claim that Le Grande and his cronies in the administration stand for: "University knows best."

No comments:

Post a Comment