Thursday, August 7, 2008

Judicial Committee Mythbusters

“The students are coming, the students are coming…”and just as frantically as Paul Revere traveled on his midnight ride many years ago, so are we the faculty, staff and administration of Fort Valley State University preparing for an arrival. While our students' arrival will be met with a much friendlier attitude that that of the Americans meeting the British in Revere's day, there are, nonetheless, preparations to be made.

As part of my efforts to aid the students that are coming our way, I would like to discuss a topic that many students skim over or tune out during Freshman Orientation; the function of the Judicial Committee here at FVSU. Hopefully students will read through our blog when they get settled here and be introduced to how this committee functions and maybe even have a few myths dispelled along the way.

The Judicial Committee operates under the supervision and guidance of the Vice-President for Student Affairs, Dr. Terrence Smith. The members of the committee are chosen to serve a one-year term and approved by our President, Dr. Larry Rivers. The committee consists of two Co-Chairpersons and 10 to 12 members. The committee hears cases twice a month; each Co-chair presides once monthly over cases that range from fighting to electronic harassment to partying and everything in between and may number anywhere from five to sixteen cases in each session.

So how does one end up in front of the committee (by now you should be hearing strains of the theme music from the Godfather in your head)? The way that a student ends up in Judicial is quite simple: they break rules, ignore regulations and commit infractions against the university, another student, or a faculty, staff or member of the administration. This generally involves campus security, or as in some cases recently, the Fort Valley Police Department.

Now let’s dispel the first myth that you may have heard: “Campus security are not real cops, they can’t do anything.” Folks this is false and dangerous myth. The security at FVSU is made up of state-mandated law enforcement officers who are trained to function in the same manner and with the same legal rights as those protecting our cities and highways. They are “real” cops and they CAN and WILL do something if they see you misbehaving.

Now for the second myth: "If I go before the judicial committee, it ain’t that big of a deal.” Wrong again. If you appear before judicial, you will be asked how you plead and your case will be heard. You will be allowed to present witnesses, your mother, father or anyone else can come sit in the courtroom with you. But you will ultimately decide your own fate by your behavior. The judicial committee will consider all evidence and then render a judgment of guilty or innocent. If the judgment is innocent, you will receive a letter to that effect and that is the end of the story. However, receive a guilty verdict and the committee will also decide on your punishment, based on the seriousness of the infraction. The committee then sends a recommendation to the Vice President of Student Affairs and, with his approval (he seldom disapproves committee recommendations), a letter will be sent to you.

The ball is now in your court and so comes Myth # 3. “The sanctions imposed by the judicial committee ain’t nothing to worry about; just pay a fine.” Wrong again. If you receive fines, community service or other sanctions such as probation or expulsion and fail to complete the terms in the manner set forth by the committee, a hold will be put on your grades, your financial aid and the ability to register or pre-register for classes for the next term. The only way to get these holds off is to complete the terms of your hearing, and no, you cannot work off 100 hours of community service two weeks before registration.

And finally perhaps the biggest myth of all, “Drugs and alcohol are no big deal at FVSU, it is a PARTY SCHOOL, and besides if I get caught, my parents lawyer will get me off." Oops,wrong again. FVSU has a ZERO TOLERANCE policy against drugs, alcohol and weapons regardless of who brings it on campus. If you are caught with drugs or alcohol in your room, your car or on your person, you most probably are going to face EXPULSION. Oh and by the way, because this is a university judicial committee, your parents' lawyer has absolutely no jurisdiction here. He can come and hold your hand or confer with you on what to say, but he or she is not going to argue your case or protect you.

Finally and most important, when you are tempted to stray off the path because of temptations, envision you mother sitting behind you in the hearing, tears streaking down her face as she frets over the day missed from work to come and support you, while you sit in front row center trying to explain why it was a good idea to get down and dirty with security over the drugs that you didn’t have that fell out of your pocket. My heart goes out to each and every parent that I meet in this manner; it is embarrassing for them, it is awkward for me and the rest of the committee and as soon as you leave the hearing, as the old saying goes, “ain't nobody going to be happy if Mamma ain’t happy..."

--Oreta Samples is the lead veterinary technician for the Department of Veterinary Science at Fort Valley State Univeristy

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