UDC policies put students at an unfair disadvantage

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

The University Committee on Discipline (UDC) is an important administrative body, yet it is not widely understood. The Editorial Board feels that the unchecked power the UDC wields, as well as the secrecy that pervades the UDC proceedings, is detrimental to the health of the University community. With this editorial, The Tartan begins a multi-week series examining the workings of the UDC.

From the Carnegie Mellon Code: "Students at Carnegie Mellon, because they are members of an academic community dedicated to the achievement of excellence, are expected to meet the highest standards of personal, ethical and moral conduct possible. These standards require personal integrity, a commitment to honesty without compromise, as well as truth without equivocation and a willingness to place the good of the community above the good of the self."

The (UDC) has the largest scope of the three Judicial Hearing Boards, the other two being the Residence Hall Judicial Board and the Greek Judicial Board. The UDC?s jurisdiction covers all cases potentially resulting in suspension or expulsion; appeals of academic sanctions by university departments or decisions by other disciplinary boards; or situations in which a member of the campus community files charges against a Carnegie Mellon student for an alleged violation of the University community standards and personal harm.
Intrinsic problems exist in the UDC process itself. The committee?s jurisdiction is so great that it can hear a case even when the facts of a situation are in dispute. Fact-finding policies are poorly defined and students can find themselves facing charges based on false information of which they have little ability to correct.
There is minimal recourse for cases that go directly to the UDC. Overturning a decision of the UDC requires the authority of the Vice President for Enrollment or the University President; without a legitimate appeal process, civil litigation against the University ? which, for most, is prohibitively expensive ? is the only recourse for those involved. There should be an initial hearing or lower committee in place if the Committee?s decision is to remain as absolute as it is.
Being party to a UDC hearing is extraordinarily stressful, and causes undue harm to defendants; it is enough to destroy the academics of an entire semester. Cases are even heard during finals, depriving potentially innocent students of their right to demonstrate their understanding of the course material.
One of the largest controversies surrounding the UDC is its gag order. No party involved ? complainant, respondent, or any panelist ? can speak to any other party about any proceeding, result, or punishment. This secrecy is important in matters involving some students? rights to privacy, but the policy fails to address the community?s continuing need for awareness of its surroundings.