We Are the 5% Solution
We recently were featured in an article in The Dartmouth. The journalist, Ms. Amanda Young, discussed what we do and then spoke with their Director of Undergraduate Affairs, Mr. Nathan Miller, and Ms. Jessica Womack, a junior on Dartmouth’s “Committee on Standards (COS),” to get a sense of whether or not we are a resource that Dartmouth students should use. It was a fair article with both Mr. Miller and Ms. Womack saying what you would expect from people in their positions. Neither of them thinks that a student needs to use our services to get through the process; although they both seem to acknowledge that a student should use anything he or she can to maximize their readiness for the process. While that position is inherently contradictory, since we essentially agree with them I thought I’d explain it.
To make the math easy, let’s say that, on average, 5% of college students get into some kind of trouble each year. This trouble can be anything from the silly (violating copyright through “illegal” downloads) to the horrible (sexual assault.) To make it even simpler, let’s pretend that Dartmouth has 2000 students so each year 100 of them get in some sort of trouble. Ms. Womack and Mr. Miller both think that the process works well and that the support offered is sufficient for the students involved. Let’s say they’re right, and give them an A on their process and the support offered. That means that there is a 95% rate of what I call “sufficient fairness” where the resources and the process are enough to ensure that a student is prepared to obtain the best result possible. That would be an amazing system, and something that the people on the COS (like Ms. Womack) and the person responsible for the process (Mr. Miller) should be understandably proud. In fact, at College Judicial Consultants we assume that every system is at or near 95% with the people involved in the process acting beyond reproach and really doing the best they can for students.
That still leaves 5% of the time where some additional help is needed or would help a student be more prepared. Using the numbers above that means that at Dartmouth every year, 5 students could benefit from competent outside help. In other words, it is completely consistent for the world to have judicial systems with an efficiency and customer satisfaction rate higher than almost anything offered anywhere by anyone, and also that the students subjected to that system could on occasion, use help and support beyond that system. We are here for that 1%, 3%, 5% or higher percent of the cases where the resources either are not sufficient or the student/student organization cannot use them fully so they are, in practice, not sufficient. We are not trying to suggest that systems are out to get students or are happy when a student organization gets screwed over. We believe that systems of accountability are good things, managed by good people who work hard, and adjudicated by good people with the best intentions. The problem is that sometimes that isn’t enough.
I can hear the defensiveness of some of our critics now “you’re just making up numbers!” Correct. I did. I have no way of knowing how many students that have gone through a process believe that they understood it all, did everything they should have, and would change nothing about how it went. I do know, however, that if systems were perfect there would be no need for an appeal process. If everything worked out as it should AND the students subjected to it were always satisfied with the result, they wouldn’t want to appeal because there would be no need. However, the appeals process is there for when a student believes that something very wrong has happened, and that the result is unfair. (I talk about appeals in an earlier blog so I won’t go into it more, but if you don’t see this point let me know and I’ll explain more.)
We love to assign blame in this country. If something isn’t working, or if there is a breakdown in something that does work, we love to point to someone and say “this is why it doesn’t work.” If a student thinks the system is unfair, then it is that student or that fraternity that is “broken,” not the system. ($5 to the first person who can send me an article where the upper administration of a school, before any legal action began, said When we say that systems with underprepared participants are inherently unfair, we are not criticizing the people involved in that system (usually.) We believe that most systems are inherently fair and that almost administrators and board members are trying to get the right result. In fact, we count on it. Our fundamental belief is that no matter how fair a system is the outcome will not be fair if the person subjected to it is not able to use it fully. We are not challenging the fairness of a system when we say that.
Schools do have varying levels of support–some have advisors they train on the process, student advocates who help they prepare their responses, and other resources to help a student be prepared. As I’ve said, in most cases they are probably fine and will be enough help. However, when something is really serious, when a student or student group feels that they want someone who’s goal is to help them minimize the sanction against them or make sure they are not held accountable for something they didn’t do, when they want judgment free help, or when they just don’t trust the resources, we are here. We have seen thousands of cases in different kinds of systems. We have seen administrative hearings (run them in some cases,) all student boards (advised/created them in some cases,) boards made up of faculty, staff and students (trained them in some cases,) and “special” boards made up of more highly trained people to hear more serious cases (and served on them in some cases.) We study the judicial system of every client’s school, and by the time the hearing happens understand it better than almost anyone. More than that, when we help a student or student group, our only obligation is to them. We have no obligation to disclose and will never tell anyone what our client tells us, a promise that administrators simply cannot make. We also do not care about any political pressure on an office to deal with hazing, the anger of a faculty member about allegations of academic misconduct, the ego of a dean who believes that he should be able to control student behavior, or any of the other things that consciously or subconsciously shape a system. It is also worth noting that we encourage our clients to ALSO take advantage of the resources on campus. Go to the counseling center, the academic resource center, your RA, and get yourself a hearing advisor so you don’t have to sit there alone! Just don’t think that any of them have the combine expertise, experience, and knowledge that we do about Greek life, judicial systems, and case preparation.
If you have any questions about what we do and why we do it, email me. We try to be as transparent as possible, so if we are doing something and you want to understand why, just ask. You can email me at DaveK@collegejudicialconsultants.com, or the office in general at Info@collegejudicialconsultants.com, or you can call us at (617) 287-8782.