Board Approves Updates to Code of Student Conduct

After a months-long review process that incorporated student feedback, the updated Code of Student Conduct will go into effect July 1.

May 17, 2019


The George Washington University Board of Trustees approved Friday a series of updates to the Code of Student Conduct.

The process to update the code began last fall when the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) launched a comprehensive review process, which involved listening sessions for various GW constituencies. After the listening sessions, SRR convened a committee of students and staff with particular perspective on feedback from those listening sessions, said Christy Anthony, director of SRR.

That committee met for 10 weeks this spring to develop an updated proposal for the Board of Trustees, Ms. Anthony said.

Changes outlined in the fall represented the first broad review of the code since 1996 and included updates to the way discriminatory harassment and unlawful discrimination are defined and considered, as well as new criteria in the appeals process and the removal of fines as a foundation for sanctions.

In the recently updated proposal, which incorporates the GW community’s feedback, there are also expanded opportunities for participation by complainants, a revision to the definition of hazing and more updates to adjudication processes.

“The changes to the Code of Student Conduct reflect a new emphasis on restorative justice in keeping with the educational mission of the university,” said Cissy Petty, associate vice provost and dean of the student experience. “Collaboration across the university was key to making these changes, and we look forward to involving our university partners in an annual revision process.”

The biggest change to the Code of Student Conduct involves broadened opportunities for complainants (on a case by case basis) to participate more fully in the conduct process for all types of incidents, Ms. Anthony said.

"That means, for example, if a student smashes someone's computer, the person whose computer is broken can not only make a witness statement but can also bring in witnesses and ask questions of the respondent,” Ms. Anthony said. “There will also be some instances where complainants may receive information about the outcome."

Another update prohibits student organizations from adjudicating a violation of university policy unless the organization consults with or obtains the approval of designated university officials. Additionally, Ms. Anthony said, updates to hazing—defined in the code roughly as any action taken or situation created to join a group or organization that might reasonably endanger mental or physical well-being—have removed the notion that harm must be intended for hazing to occur.

There is also an update to language regarding student rights of assembly to better allow for spontaneous gathering, Ms. Anthony said.

"If there's a student protest that has spontaneously assembled somewhere, we wouldn’t disperse them solely because they did not reserve the space,” Ms. Anthony said. “We still might disperse them if they were so disruptive that normal activities couldn't continue, but we wouldn't say, 'well, you didn't reserve this so you can't be here.'"

Smaller changes include an expansion of the membership of the committee on the judicial system, which was renamed to the appeals board as a more accurate description of what it does, Ms. Anthony said. The committee also revised the definitions of protected characteristics, unlawful discrimination and discriminatory harassment to be more consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy revisions, also approved by the Board in this cycle.

Ms. Anthony said she is grateful for the community’s contributions to this effort and encouraged the GW community to continue bringing new ideas to the table.

"I'm really excited to see the community continue to move forward to regular review of the code, that this will become part of our normal community action, and that we will be continuing this process in the fall and starting a new round of it,” Ms. Anthony said.