Possible changes to UW code of conduct debated

March 5, 2009

Amid the controversy surrounding the proposed changes to the UW student code of conduct, Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education discussed their potential effect on students’ rights Wednesday at Memorial Union.

The proposed changes would give the university the ability to punish students for crimes committed off-campus, but such offenses would have to be repeated violations or serious ones, like sexual assault or destruction of property.

Kissel presented his worries that the new revisions may take away some of students’ rights, such as the right to legal representation at a disciplinary hearing.

Under the new proposed version of the conduct code, whether a lawyer is allowed to represent or speak for the student would be at the sole discretion of the disciplinary committee.

"Only a lawyer may have the training necessary to know and respond when a student’s right has been violated," Kissel said.

Opponents and supporters had the opportunity to voice their opinions about the changes.

UW-Madison Assistant Dean Ervin Cox stressed the need for a revised code, citing the need to update rules that deal with evolving technology.

"Overall we need to revise the advisory code to more reflect actual practice. It’s just outdated," he said.

Deborah Katz Hunt, a parent of a UW student, said she was concerned about how the changes would affect students’ rights.

"As I read this code, I think [my son's] rights are not going to be strongly protected … I am not confident enough that revisions to the code would be a good thing. They did not present reasons that answered my concerns," she said.

Some opponents of the changes, like UW-Madison political science professor Donald Downs, plan to take up their concerns with the UW System Board of Regents.

"We are going to send some thoughts to the Board of Regents, and some of us will probably try to appear in the Legislature when it goes to the Legislature."

In response to the opposition, UW System spokesperson David Giroux said those who oppose the changes focus only on minor details and several members of the community think the rules should be even stricter.

The UW Board of Regents is holding a public hearing Thursday to get input on the proposed changes and will vote on them in May.

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Schools: University of Wisconsin – Madison Cases: University of Wisconsin: Students’ Due Process Rights