RHA’s new judicial branch to become operational in coming months

The organization is working on forming a student conduct court as well as policies for the upcoming presidential election.

The Residence Halls Association is working on updating its constitution to factor in the organization’s newly elected judicial branch. The branch will have the opportunity to hold a peer-review council for students who violate residential living conduct policies, such as noise or animal ordinances.

Also under the realm of the judicial branch are the March presidential elections and scholarships.

“There have not been any changes to the constitution yet,” RHA Speaker of Congress Kathy Rudd said. “But we have sat down and made a two-part timeline to determine what to do to make the judicial branch functional.”

Although RHA hopes to complete its new bylaws and have its judicial branch operational by the end of the semester, the process is a huge undertaking, Rudd said.

“I don’t want to rush it,” she said. “The process needs to be well thought-out, so it might take more than the remaining six weeks of the semester. It’s rather extensive to make a whole new branch.”

The journey to making new bylaws entails 15 of the RHA representatives to sit with an adviser and write a draft to be approved by RHA Congress. Congress then edits the document as necessary and puts the bylaws to a vote. Last year’s judicial branch underwent the challenge and was denied by Congress.

The RHA’s priority for the Constitution’s bylaws is to flush out all the functions of the judicial branch, Rudd said.

“We need to have it well-outlined so students know when they are within their rights and to keep the integrity of the branch,” she said.

The branch also needs to work out the parts pertaining to student conduct. This part of the judicial branch requires the time-consuming process of Family Education Rights and Policy Act or FERPA training, which approves students to view legal information and educates them on judicial reasoning.

These student-review courts would view cases brought to them by hall coordinators after a student has breached residence hall conduct. RHA President Chris Rucker explained that one of the students' disciplinary options is to have a hearing with the RHA resident court if they feel their hall coordinator’s decision is wrong or that they would like another body to hear the case.

“The resident court would offer a suggestion of disciplinary action to the hall coordinator,” Rucker said. “Though it is not a direct decision, the suggestion would be considered by the hall coordinators.”

The reason for the absence of a student conduct court in RHA is lack of advertising and, therefore, a lack of student utilization.

“Many years ago RHA had a resident court,” Rucker said. “But it was dissolved because there were so few students using it. It wasn’t well advertised or well known to residents. If we do a resident court we would want to make sure the residents know they have this option, but ultimately it is up to the students if they want to use it.”

Another problem with the resident court is that students have found that peer-reviewed cases are generally punished harsher than if handled by normal conduct, Rucker said.

The board of elections and scholarship part of the judicial branch could be operational as soon as next semester, he said.

“Ideally, the judicial branch will be up and running before winter break for presidential elections," he said. "The student conduct portion of the judicial branch will not be operational for a while until they could be trained and approved by all proper departments."

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