Judicial & Restorative Justice

Judicial Committee

This Committee hears cases concerning infractions of community standards. The Judicial Committee is made up of students; staff members; and faculty members. The Director of Community Standards chairs the committee. Cases before the committee are brought by the Dean of Students.

Faculty and staff members are appointed each academic year in consultation with the Dean of Students and the Dean of the College. Student members (in good standing, academically and disciplinary) are selected via an application process by the Office of Student Life. Selected students are re-appointed annually until graduation or resignation.

A quorum of five members designated by the director of Community Standards determines each case. If a sufficient number of members of the committee is not available to hear the case, the director of Community Standards will appoint substitute members of the committee. Members will be excused from a hearing if a conflict or potential conflict of interest exists, and the committee may proceed with the remaining members, regardless of whether the committee hearing the matter then has fewer than five members for the remainder of the proceeding.

Judicial Committee Procedures

Once it has been determined by the director of community standards that a student will be asked to appear before the Judicial Committee, the student in question will receive a letter covering the incident at hand along with an explanation of the College policy involved and supporting documentation. Ideally the director of community standards, acting as the Chair of the Judicial Committee, will personally meet with student to let them know there will be a Judicial hearing involving the student. Throughout the process the director of community standards is there to help walk the student through the process and answer their questions. Upon receipt of the letter the student will respond by filling out and sending back a signed and witnessed Acknowledgement of Receipt & Statement of Hearing document. Should the student admit guilt, the Judicial Committee will, in most cases, meet with the student to determine the sanction(s). Please note that failure to respond is also considered a violation of student conduct standards. A date for the Judicial Committee Hearing ideally is set. The student will be asked to confirm that the student will attend the hearing.

Pre-Hearing

The director of campus safety conducts an investigation, if necessary, to gather the most accurate information available about the case at hand. Evidence to be used in the case can include but are not limited to: statements from witnesses, photos of the locations involved, gathering exams or lab materials, medical reports, and forensic evidence, and communications with the student charged. All of that information is shared with the chair of the director of community standards who then shares it with the accused student the Committee members hearing the case.

Both the accused student and director of community standards should identify any witnesses they request and inform the other. The director of community standards will contact the witnesses and ask each for a statement, if appropriate, as part of the investigation. It is important that the actions of the student in communicating with witnesses risk no chance of being perceived as intimidating or attempting to persuade a witness. All witnesses will be heard with the exception of students whose testimony is deemed to be redundant or irrelevant as determined by the director. A list of witnesses scheduled to participate in the hearing will be provided to the accused student and the Committee before the hearing.

The names of the students, faculty, staff, and chair scheduled to serve on the Judicial Committee will be provided to the accused student prior to the hearing. Students may not contact the Judicial Committee members. If the accused student has reason to believe that any Judicial Committee member or the chair will not be objective, the student should provide the director of community standards a written request to replace the member and the reason for the request. The request must be submitted at a reasonable time prior to the hearing. If the student believes the chair of the committee cannot be impartial, the student must submit a written request to the dean of the students. Many names will be familiar to the accused student, and simply knowing a person is not usually enough of a reason to replace a Judicial Committee member.

Prior to the hearing, all of the allegation materials are compiled into a sealed packet prepared by the director of community standards. It is important that students submit statements and other materials at an agreed upon date with the director of community standards so the Judicial Committee will have adequate time to consider the complete packet.

The student charged may bring one member of the College community (i.e., a current student or faculty/staff member) to the hearing for support. Such support person in no case may be legal counsel, and may not participate directly in the hearing.

The Judicial Committee and all witnesses are expected to maintain confidentiality concerning the matters at hand before, during, and after the hearing. The student charged is strongly encouraged to maintain confidentiality as well.

Hearing

The director of community standards functions as the non-voting chair of the Judicial Committee and will preside over the hearings. The committee may formulate as needed its own rules and procedures insofar as they are not specified in this document. Hearings are not intended to mimic formal legal proceedings, and rules of process, procedure, and/or evidence, such as those applied in criminal and civil courts, do not apply.

If the student charged, after reasonable notification and without prior authorization from the director of community standards, fails to appear at the hearing, the student waives the right to a hearing and the hearing will proceed as scheduled.


The hearing will proceed as follows:

1. Committee member selected by the chair will read the charges and present the case.

2. Student charged will present their statement if they choose to do so. Committee members ask questions of the student.

3. The individual witnesses (college and those of the student) will then be asked to provide their testimony. Student charged and the committee may question the witnesses.

4. Follow-up questions, if any, may be asked by student charged and committee members.

5. The committee will determine if they want to recall any of the witnesses. If so, witness(es) will be called back to be questioned again by the committee and student charged.

6. Closing statement, if any, is made by student charged and the chair follows with an explanation of the next steps in the process.

7. Student charged will be excused.

8. The committee will deliberate in closed session about whether student charged is responsible or not responsible for a violation of the student conduct standards or other College policies. Decisions are reached by consensus; if need be, the final determination will be made the chair. If student charged is found responsible, the chair of the Judicial Committee will share the student’s disciplinary and academic history with the committee for their use in determining a sanction. If student charged is found not responsible, the student’s disciplinary history will not be shared.
 

9. If the student is found responsible, the committee determines a sanction. The committee has the authority to impose any sanction(s) for any offense as it deems appropriate. Sanctions for violations of College policy may include, but are not limited to, the following, which may be imposed in any order, separately or in combination:

  • written warning or reprimand;
  • housing probation, reassignment, suspension or expulsion;
  • disciplinary probation or other disciplinary actions, suspension, or expulsion;
  • restitution, restoration, or fines;
  • mandatory counseling, testing, or assessment;
  • community service;
  • revocation of admission;
  • withholding or revocation of degree.

Repeated violations are likely to result in progressively severe sanctions.

10. The chair will draft the decision letter and share it with the dean of students. All members of the committee presiding over the case will review and sign the letter.

11. The chair of the Judicial Committee will meet with student charged to notify the student of the committee’s decision; the student must then sign the Acknowledgement of Receipt of Decision. The student’s adviser, any other appropriate College officials, and the student’s parents (when permitted by law), may be notified of any violations that are determined and any sanctions imposed by the committee.

Appeals Process

All appeals of Judicial Committee decisions and all appeals of disciplinary decisions rendered administratively must be made in writing within four business days. Appeals cannot be made after that period unless new evidence is discovered. Appeals may be sent to the dean of the college and the dean of students for review by the Administrative Review Committee. The dean of the college or designee will respond to the student within three business days. If a hearing for the appeal is granted, the Administrative Review Committee will hear the appeal within fourteen days. Appeals of disciplinary decisions may be made only on the following grounds:

  1. to consider new information, sufficient to alter the decision, or other relevant facts, not brought out in the original proceeding, because such information and/or facts were not known to the person appealing at the time of the original proceeding;
  2. violations of hearing procedure that had a significant effect on the outcome; and/or,
  3. appeals of the sanctions imposed.

The Administrative Review Committee or the dean of the College (or designee) may, in their sole discretion, affirm, set aside, or modify (increase, decrease, or otherwise change) the original disciplinary decision and/or the sanction(s) imposed, or may return the matter to the director of community standards or committee for reconsideration of the original decision and/or sanctions.

The Administrative Review Committee or the dean of the College (or designee) have sole discretion for determining the manner in which any such decisions are reviewed, and their decisions in regard to appeals are final.

Note:

(1) Students who are suspended (including temporary, interim suspensions) or expelled from the College at any time during the term will be responsible for the total College charges for that term. The College will not be responsible for any costs incurred due to such action. All of these go into effect within 48 hours of a decision unless in certain cases where that timeline can be reduced.

(2) Students suspended (including temporary, interim suspensions) or expelled from College housing at any time during the term will be responsible for that term’s total charges for room and board. The College will not be responsible for any costs incurred due to such action.

(3) Unpaid fines, restoration costs, or restitution will be added to the student’s bill and become part of the student’s financial obligation to the College.

Timeline Guide (This timeline is subject to modification as needed)

Day 1 - Decision to bring student before Judicial Committee

By day 3 - Letter to inform student charged of investigation

By day 8 - Student charged returns Acknowledgement of Receipt & Statement of Hearing

By Day 11- Student charged submits materials and names of witnesses and support person to chair of Judicial Committee

By Day 15 - 22 Judicial Committee meets

At least 4 days before hearing: Student charged and committee members notified of the date and sent packet of materials including names of those who serve on the committee for the hearing, and names of witnesses.

At least 2 days before the hearing: Student charged informs chair of problem with any witnesses, chair, and or committee members.

At least 2 days after hearing- Chair meets with student to inform student of the decision

At least 4 days after notification: student charged may inform chair of wish to appeal

At least 3 days after notification of appeal: chair gets back to student if appeal will happen

At least 14 days after notification of appeal: appeal is heard by ARC.

(Note: Days in the timeline and throughout the document are “business days.” For these purposes, a business day is defined as any weekday during which the College is open (even if classes are not in session).

Judicial Committee members

  • Michael Cohen, chair
  • Audre Bennett, student
  • Nick Brooke, faculty
  • Ronald Cohen, faculty
  • Thorston Dennerline, faculty
  • Hadil Marzouq, student
  • Noelle Murphy, staff
  • Selina Petschek, staff
  • Eileen Scully, faculty
  • Fiona Shea, student
  • Ray Stevens ’15, staff
  • Michael Thomson ’15, staff
  • Karen Trop, student
  • Joe Tucker, staff
  • Aila West, staff
  • Liz White, faculty
  • Friederike Windel ’15, staff
  • Dean of Students Xenia Markowitt, ex officio
  • Associate Provost and Dean of Studies Duncan Dobbelmann, ex officio

Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice (RJ) sees the focus of its work as repairing the social relationships involved in a conflict. RJ sees violations of community standards as more of injury to person & community than infraction (law). Violations are not only seen as the breaking of the community standards, or moral or spiritual code; its focus is people who have been harmed and who are at the heart of what it means to be part of a in our case, the Bennington College community. Restorative Justice looks at violations of community standards as a violation of people and obligations. Restorative Justice says justice involves victims, offenders and community members in an effort to put things right. Restorative Justice has a central focus which is about the needs of the victim, and the offender taking responsibility for what they did and repair the harm.