Philosophy and Structure
The Judicial Affairs Mission states: We collaborate with partners to facilitate civic responsibility and student development in order to provide opportunities for the cultivation and restoration of the university community.
The Office of Judicial Affairs approaches student conduct from an educational, developmental and restorative perspective. We engage students in a fair and equitable process in order to foster a safe learning environment for the entire university community. Our two primary concerns at all times are the safety of the university community as a whole and the positive development of the individual students we encounter. It is important to note that, despite our developmental approach, there are times when the safety of the community must take precedent over the needs of the individual student.
We believe that individual behaviors do not represent an individual as a whole. We teach that behaviors can have positive and negative impacts on multiple parties. We also believe that, while individuals must take responsibility for these behaviors, it is possible to change behavior for the future and to learn from mistakes. In dialogue with students, we strive to illuminate and explore the nature of any harms that have been caused to create a better understanding of the impact behavior can have on one’s self or the community. We intend to motivate students to change their behavior to have more positive impacts and fewer negative impacts.
When determining possible obligations a student may have as a result of their behavior, we consider not only the particular incident for which the charge was placed, but also the needs of that individual student as a whole. Although we place a high value on the importance of consistency in our process, we also recognize that every situation is different and every person is different. Our sanctions are designed based on current theory, best practices, and relevant assessment, to be educational in nature. A student’s need for the benefit provided by a particular sanction is not necessarily dependent on their behavior in a particular instance but on the totality of their experience. Ultimately, we hope to engage in a relationship with students in order to turn negative incidents into opportunities for positive growth.
JMU has both a right and an obligation to set reasonable standards of conduct for students who voluntarily and willingly choose to become members of the university community. In conjunction with its right to determine reasonable standards, the university also assumes a right and accepts the responsibility to establish a system of judicial and disciplinary procedures for use when university policies are violated. In turn, the university recognizes the need to ensure that students have the right to fair and equitable procedures in the event they are charged with a violation of university policies.
Whereas criminal courts most often seek to punish or deter unlawful behavior, it is generally accepted that judicial proceedings at educational institutions are intended to impress upon individuals their responsibilities or, in the most severe cases, to remove by expulsion those who should not remain in the academic community. The federal courts have called discipline a part of the teaching process. The Office of Judicial Affairs derives its authority from the court systems and the president of the University. The authority, which JMU exercises in charging and disciplining students for violations of its regulations, differs from the power exercised by civil authorities in prosecuting cases of general law.
In adopting the university judicial system — a system that depends largely on the participation of students, faculty and staff — JMU recognizes that errors in procedures and rulings may occur. Therefore, when appeals of judicial decisions are made on a basis of technical, procedural or interpretive errors, they will be acted upon within the bounds of two principles: first, the disciplinary format adopted by the university is administrative and not judicial in spirit and considerable latitude must be permitted in order to avoid excessive legalisms; and second, only errors that may reasonably have prejudiced in a significant way the interests of an accused student are to be grounds for reversal. In short, it is not intended that technicalities should avert a decision that is substantially valid. Additionally, the right of appeal will typically extend to accused students only, not to their accusers. However, in sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, accusing students are extended the right to appeal as well. Other special circumstances may warrant a change in procedures to uphold the intent of the judicial system.
Changes and Amendments
All policies and procedures defined in these sections are subject to change by the vice president of Student Affairs and University Planning or the Judicial Control Board at any time. Students shall be informed of any changes in this document. The membership of the Judicial Control Board consists of the Dean of Students (chair), one faculty member and two students (the Student Government Association president and one other student). The student judicial coordinators and the director of the Office of Judicial Affairs serve as ex officio members. All members of the Judicial Control Board are appointed by the vice president for Student Affairs and University Planning and have voting privileges.
Adjudicative jurisdiction for all judicial cases shall be assigned by the Office of Judicial Affairs. Geographical jurisdiction includes all violations occurring on campus or university leased or controlled properties, in study abroad programs, in Rockingham County or the City of Harrisonburg for alcohol or drug violations and student behavior (including most felonies) in any location that might be detrimental to the mission of the university.