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The Daily Tar Heel

BOG to Put Judicial Systems Under Review

BOG Chairman Ben Ruffin announced plans for the task force to the board April 13. Members will be named at the board's next meeting.

Ruffin said he believes the task force is needed to ensure that UNC-system universities have fair and consistent judicial systems so the BOG is able to effectively examine appeals to the board.

"We want to make sure that the student policy has some uniformity so that when a problem comes to us it is handled (effectively)," he said.

He also said the task force is being created because he believes it is the BOG's responsibility to ensure that students have fair access to judicial procedures.

Ruffin said the task force will include a mixture of university officials and student leaders and that he has contacted UNC Association of Student Governments President Andrew Payne to recruit student representatives for the body.

Payne said he will present Ruffin with the names of student leaders and university faculty familiar with campus judicial procedures.

He said he believes a problem with the judicial systems is that students do not know their rights during the procedures. "At some schools, students are not even told that they can appeal to the Board of Governors."

But Payne said he believes that once the task force is created, students will be more aware of the judicial procedures. "Students will know exactly what their rights are," he said. "I think that will be the greatest reward (or) outcome that will come out of this."

UNC-system General Counsel Leslie Winner, who Ruffin placed in charge of creating the task force, said she also believes the body will focus on examining the overall structure of campus judicial systems.

But Winner said she does not think concerns over individual judicial systems -- especially the UNC-Chapel Hill Honor Court -- will be the focus of the task force's work.

UNC-CH's Honor Court came under fire last semester when two students from Professor James Coggins' Computer Science 120 class were tried and found guilty of cheating on an assignment.

Charges against one of the students, senior Mike Trinh, were dismissed Feb. 9 by an appellate board, but concerns have been raised about the appeals of other students involved in the scandal.

UNC-CH Dean of Students Melissa Exum said she believes the controversy surrounding the case last semester shows that an examination into UNC-CH's judicial system is needed.

"I think this past year, with the computer science class case, indicates that there are some areas to look at and examine," she said. "I think that a review would not be a bad idea."

Exum, who also serves as UNC-CH judicial program officer, said university officials are now looking at ways to reform the operation of the UNC-CH judicial system, including means to improve student knowledge of the Honor Court.

She also said she believes that once problems in the judicial system are identified and remedied, students will be more aware of campus procedures.

"I think one of the ways that the (UNC-CH) community is going to be better is that people will have a greater awareness of what our judicial system is doing," she said. "I think the more people talk about it, the better."

Exum said that while she has not been approached to serve on the BOG-initiated task force, she said she would be willing to join the committee and offer suggestions for reform.

While the BOG-initiated task force is still in its developmental stage, UNC-system officials are hopeful that the committee will help improve the overall effectiveness of campus judicial systems, Winner said.

"I think everyone agrees that the disciplinary procedures need to be fair and efficient, and the goal of the committee will be to make recommendations to improve the fairness and efficiency (of the procedures)."

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