Fall 2020 Proposed Amendments to the Campus Code of Conduct


The University Assembly was charged by the President to review the following recommended changes that were a result of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate:

  • Reworking the Code to have an educational and aspirational rather than punitive, quasi-criminal tone.
  • Significantly simplifying the Code and having it use “plain English”.
  • Narrowing its focus to students.
  • Separating standards of behavior from administrative procedures for managing misconduct.
  • Simplifying the administrative procedures.
  • Expanding the treatment of Harassment.
  • Permitting enhanced penalties for Harassment or Assault that are motivated by bias.
  • Considering moving less serious types of misconduct to the Office of the Dean of Students for resolution.

The Office of University Counsel has considered these recommendations into the proposals posted here for public comment. While reviewing these proposals, we ask that you keep these recommended changes in mind:

  • Do you agree or disagree with these changes?
  • Do you think the Office of University Counsel incorporated these changes well into its proposals or did it not go far enough with incorporating some of these changes?
  • Are there changes that aren't part of that list that you think we should consider as well?

All of your comments will help create a better Code for our community. Review and public comment by the Cornell community are welcomed and encouraged. The deadline for submitting feedback and comments is 5:00 PM EST on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.

**At its concluding meeting in the spring of 2020, the UA asked University Counsel to draft a new version of a Student Code of Conduct and associated procedures that would reflect input from several entities that had worked on versions over the past two years.  The newly posted documents reflect Counsel’s work reconciling these different versions and approaches and explicitly invite campus input on numerous issues, including what standard of evidence the community believes should be applied to cases arising under the Student Code of Conduct.

The items below are related to the substantive section of the Code revision. 

The items below are related to the procedural section of the Code revision.

This page contains comments posted by members of the Cornell community pertaining to General Comments in the current and proposed Campus Code and judicial system. Before posting to this forum, please read the comments below to make sure that the information you are providing is pertinent to the discussion and has not already been addressed before. Comments containing inappropriate language, including but not limited to offensive, profane, vulgar, threatening, harassing, or abusive language, are subject to removal.

Review and public comment by the Cornell community are welcomed and encouraged. The deadline for submitting feedback and comments is 5:00 PM EST on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.


** Commenting is closed.

Lowering burden of proof???

Submitted by Anonymous authenticated user on Mon, 2020-11-16 21:01 (user name hidden)

Some of my peers have already articulated it better than I can, but I strongly oppose lowering the burden of proof for code violations. This institution's purpose is to educate its students, and making it easier to punish them and possibly derail their academics is completely contradictory to the mission of this university. It's beyond me how the SA who supposedly represent the student body are in support of this, when it's obvious that the majority of the students do not agree. 


Do not lower burden of proof

Submitted by Reagan Lind Brownell on Mon, 2020-11-16 20:59

Do not lower the burden of proof. Keep clear and convincing evidence. Lowering the burden of proof would increase the rate of wrongful convictions against students and tip the scales even further against them. On a matter that directly affects the student body such as this one, listen to the student body - we are strongly pushing back against the proposed change to preponderance of the evidence (the lowest possible BoP - one that would only increase the power imbalance that already exists between the JA and the student body).


Burden of Proof

Submitted by Erik Dylan Szakiel on Mon, 2020-11-16 20:42

strongly advocate against lowering the burden of proof for code violations. Not only does it increase the risk of punishing students for something that they might not have done, but it unfairly tilts the scales against students. A standard of a preponderance of the evidence will enforce a judging criteria of "who do you believe more?" among hearing panels. There is an inherent, strong bias for someone to trust evidence presented by an official body -- in this case, the Judicial Administrator of Cornell University -- rather than to believe an individual student. No amount of training can wholly account for this bias, and it sets a dangerous precedent for future potential code violations. There already exists such an incredibly large imbalance between the Judicial Administrator and the student in terms of resources, knowledge, credibility, and time.

I think a good way to look at it is this -- preponderance of the evidence is the lowest burden of proof used in civil proceedings -- when both sides have (in theory) equally skilled representation, equal opportunities to view the other side's evidence and prepare, and no inherent bias in the jury. This isn't the case at all at Cornell. You have on one hand an entire office of Judicial Administrators, whose job it is to pursue code violations, stacked against law students who are juggling classes, clinics, and an equal amount of cases. You have Judicial Administrators who can compel students to come in for interviews, record them, and use them in proceedings, stacked against students who are unable to even request to see copies of the same, and who are judged harshly if they attempt to talk to/interview any potential witnesses. Add these imbalances to the incredible amount of stress placed on students who stand at the receiving end of these proceedings, and the difference becomes clear. This isn't a "he said, she said" situation -- we need a safeguard against the power imbalance that already exists in our system. 

The Student Assembly does not at all represent the interests of the undergraduate student population when it urges the University Assembly to lower the burden of proof. No student with any legitimate experience in this system would ever advocate for the same. No matter how you cut it, the Judicial Administrator is more so a prosecutors office than a group of "rule enforcers." Lowering the standard will encourage so many more frivolous code violation proceedings, increase the likelihood of improper convictions, and make the University so much worse off. We're not "behind the curve" when it comes to our higher burden of proof as compared to other Universities -- we're ahead of it. We stand for our students, and we should continue to do so. 


I Strongly Disagree

Submitted by Anonymous authenticated user on Mon, 2020-11-16 20:26 (user name hidden)

Literally, by definition, the university is taking something away from students with this revision: if passed, it will be significantly more likely that a student will face consequences in any given case. These consequences are real and they really do impose restrictions and punishments on real people. This is not an amicable process where everyone goes in with equal power to agree on an outcome. This is a hearing. Furthermore, it is a hearing by full-time employees of the university against full-time students of the university. Students have so many other time commitments. It is neither fair nor right to demand even more from them in the case of a hearing by making it harder to fight the charges on their already limited time.


Lowering the burden of proof

Submitted by Anonymous authenticated user on Mon, 2020-11-16 20:24 (user name hidden)

Lowering the amount of evidence needed to convict students will only increase the amount of wrongful convictions.  The JA should not be able to punish students and negatively impact their time at Cornell and their future beyond this unless they are certain that the student is guilty. Simply basing the burden of proof as preponderance risks each students right to a fair trial.  All students deserve a fair trial


Burden of Proof Change

Submitted by Alexander James Myers on Mon, 2020-11-16 20:19

I don't understand why the SA supports lowering the standard of proof from clear and convincing to preponderance. No one I know agrees with that decision. It's hard enough to defend accusations of violations on a student's schedule, to weight the scales further against students is unfair and especially damaging to those on this campus who are less privileged. More penalties and convictions for students is not the right way to go about lowering violations or improving Cornell's campus, just look at how harsh penalties and convictions have impacted the US justice system. Do not lower the burden of proof.


Burden Change

Submitted by Danny Shokry on Mon, 2020-11-16 19:54

This propsoed change to the burden is clearly unfair. It tips already unfair odds further against students, especially POC and low income students. The burden should be clear and convincing evidence. A move to a perponderance of the evidence would be a blatant disregard of the students at Cornell. 


Do not lower the burden of proof

Submitted by Anonymous authenticated user on Mon, 2020-11-16 19:51 (user name hidden)

What student would want to decrease the evidence needed to JA them? This will only result in more false punishments and can be easily abused by power hungry staff. In no circumstance is this okay, all students deserve a fair trial and should only be convicted with substantial and evident proof. Preponderance is too low of a burden and the university should provide clear and convincing evidence. 


Comments on Proposed Amendments

Submitted by Anonymous authenticated user on Mon, 2020-11-16 19:35 (user name hidden)

Undergraduate students strongly support the clear and convincing standard of proof for code violations, irrespective of the Student Assembly’s false and misleading impressions of its contingency’s preferences.

Only 16% of students voted in the Student Assembly Elections this year, an historic low. This means that, for many issues, the SA does not adequately represent the undergraduate community at Cornell, especially in regards to the Code revisions.


Dumb rule

Submitted by Eli Benjamin Bienstock on Mon, 2020-11-16 19:30

Do not lower the burden of proof. Keep clear and convincing.


No student in their right mind would ever vote FOR this.  Why would they risk being found responsible for things they may not have committed?!