Rice Student Judicial Programs has implemented two changes to its disciplinary meetings in response to student leader concerns over transparency: Starting in December, SJP has begun recording its proceedings and often includes a second official in the meetings.
SJP Director Lisa Zollner, who arrived at the department in 2013 along with Student Conduct Officer Emily Garza, said input from college presidents and chief justices influenced the new policies. Despite the changes, however, students still will not have the right to record meetings. This is in contrast to Texas law, which states that recordings require consent from only one party being recorded.
Garza said this change will improve the adjudication process, particularly during factually complex cases that may involve many witnesses.
“Having the audio recordings for factually complex cases is very beneficial in terms of getting all of the facts straight and in a more time efficient manner,” Garza said. “If there’s a case that involves, say, 10 witnesses, it’s helpful to have the recordings in order to review facts.”
Both directors said the audio recordings are not shared outside the SJP office. Because the change is recent, there has not yet been a decision about how long the recordings will be retained. According to Zollner, student disciplinary files are retained for 10 years after the involved student graduates, but the audio recordings are not a part of these files.
“SJP is working with General Counsel to determine a retention schedule for the recordings,” Zollner said.
Zollner said another change, made this academic year, is that when possible both she and Garza will be present during meetings with students. This change was also aimed at alleviating campus-wide concerns about SJP proceedings.
“Recently, there have been negative rumors toward SJP,” Zollner said. “Some students come into our office expecting the worst. Having two people rather than just one person present is a response to concerns voiced by students.”
Zollner and Garza both said SJP’s primary concern is to keep the Rice community safe and this includes being a resource for students who feel they have been victimized.
“The true risk of the rumors about SJP is that they will scare students away from SJP’s services,” Zollner said. If students believe SJP is bad, they may decline to seek out SJP as a resource. This is a risk Rice students should not accept, and a risk students should actively work to guard against.”