Spring 2020 Proposed Amendments to the Campus Code of Conduct


The Codes and Judicial Committee of the University Assembly was charged by the President to review the following recommended changes that were a result of the Campus Climate Task Force:
  • 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 CJC 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 CJC 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 the Codes and Judicial Committee in its efforts to create a better Code for our community. Review and public comment by the Cornell community are welcomed and encouraged through 5:00 PM on Friday, May 8, 2020.

Downloadable PDF of consolidated public comments


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. Please note that a * denotes a section that has corresponding CJC comments that the committee wishes the public to review.

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 through 5:00 PM on Friday, May 8, 2020.


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Response from Grads for Gender Inclusion in Computing

Submitted by Maria Alexandra Antoniak on Thu, 2020-05-07 11:34

We represent graduate students concerned about gender issues in computing and across Cornell University.

We are very concerned about the feedback process for these proposed changes. 

  • Giving only three days for feedback is unacceptable (students received notice via email on May 5, the forum is on May 7, and comments close on May 8). 
  • The open forum is scheduled at the same time as the Graduate Student Town Hall on Teaching Reactivation.
  • It is difficult to parse the proposed changes, and a direct comparison of before-and-after texts would be more helpful. 
  • The proposed changes are not explained. For example, why is the scope narrowed to students, excluding faculty and staff?
  • Unstructured open comments without constructive conversations between the committee and student groups will result in changes that do not represent the students. 
  • Finally, we are in the middle of a global pandemic that has produced huge uncertainty and turmoil for universities, making it difficult to give proper attention to these important changes.

We therefore ask for the timeline for review and feedback by students to be extended, more transparency and better summarization of proposed changes by the committee with ongoing public forums, and a clear timeline of proposed changes and votes.

Regarding the Code of Conduct text, we strongly support more specific language about sexual harassment. The more specific the definition, the easier it is to identify destructive behavior. Both the current and proposed Code of Conduct do not contain explicit language describing sexual harassment. Relying only on Title IX is not sufficient; sometimes sexual harassment does not meet the strict legal definitions covered under Title IX but is still unprofessional, deeply harms the victim, and damages our academic community. Both undergraduate and graduate students experience sexual harassment in alarming numbers, often with little access to redress. 

In addition, the standard of evidence should not be changed unilaterally without significant feedback from students over a longer period. 


Executive Board

Graduate Students for Gender Inclusion in Computing at Cornell



safety of students on and off campus

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Thu, 2020-05-07 11:20 (user name hidden)

I have read some of the previous comments. Some are against expanding safety and security measures. Many students live off campus. A statement that maybe specifies a perimeter regarding campus police involvement / authority [and what specific actions would they be authorized to warn against, make arrests, and so on] could help minimize misinterpretations. I agree that all of these proposed statements should be made known publicly to CU consituents and be given a time frame to respond if they so choose. I disagree about not making it punishable by law "consensual" use , sale, purchase of illegal substances. They're called illegal [against the laws or regulations of an institution]. This is besides the undeniable fact that they're dangerous, harmful to health and safety. About  the use of the phrase "historically discriminated"...I urge you to rephrase. No human of any group, affiliation, race, etc., deserves nor should be expected to tolerate harrassment in any shape or form. However, the more specific about what constitutes harrassment, the better. It also needs to be made clear what the procedure to report conduct issues is. Laso, how many will be employed and properly trained to implement and enforce the code of conduct?


We Need Due Process Especially For Sexual Harassment/Assault

Submitted by Jeffrey B. Deutsch on Thu, 2020-05-07 09:04

We need to carefully reconsider Policy 6.4 as well -- especially since the new Title IX regulations have just been released:



If anything, due process protections are especially important when we're considering branding someone a sexual harasser let alone a rapist. That's much higher stakes than, say, finding someone responsible for vandalism or underage drinking.

Under the new rules, Cornell can use either preponderance of the evidence or clear and convincing evidence -- either way, we'll just need to apply it across the board (among other things, to accused faculty and staff as well as accused students).

I for one urge clear and convincing evidence. It's that important to make sure we get it right.

PS: One more good thing about an independent Judicial Codes Counselor's office: Since the respondent him- (or her-) self can't cross-examine the complainant, a JCC advisor can do this professionally.


Procedural Section 6.9: A Concerned Refutation

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Thu, 2020-05-07 00:52 (user name hidden)

I will assert that using a “preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof, as proposed via amendment, in section 6.9 of the Campus Code of Conduct to charge and judge a university action is detrimental to Cornell's academic culture, and therefore shall remain a clear and convincing standard. First I will establish many items that are in the status quo that are missing from the campus code that are implicit in society. Then I will show that the forthcoming CJC Amendments will fail those that are the most vulnerable in our community. 


I will start out with many points that are rooted in experience and in law. A Cornellian's word is gold. Those that are highly educated have their statements holding more weight than those who only hold a GRE or equivalent. A person who holds a JD or MD is held in higher regard than those who hold a Bachlors. Their word is supposedly gold and should be speaking the truth, especially when studying at an Ivy League.

Secondly, let us then examine the proposed burden of proof. If the preponderance of the evidence is the burden of proof, whoever calls 911 first, nine times out of ten, wins the case. Street knowledge shows that if you initiate a fight with someone, whoever calls 911 first is going to get off without charges. That is due to the fact that whoever calls 911 is the one that feels like they are wronged. If you disagree with this street knowledge, let us take a trip to the Ithaca Commons or behind Walmart, get into a fight and learn the power of calling 911 first. As Section 1 states, “we value engagement in our community, our state, and the broader world, learning about their needs and strengths, and applying the knowledge we create for the benefit of society.” The proposed experiment under the amendment’s burden of proof will most definitely help with this mission. Another fact of the proposed preponderance of the evidence standard is that “the burden of proof is met when the party with the burden [Under the proposed amendments- prosecution] convinces the fact finder that there is a greater than 50% chance that the claim is true.” (Cornell LII Wex). This is a thin margin and it is inherently hard to prove that you did not do something. If someone were to state you were at an alley when you were actually at home typing a thesis, it is then difficult for you to prove you were not at that alley. Therefore, when the 911 call is then started, this places the defendant in an inherent disadvantage. 

I cannot go without stating the status quo burden of proof, clear and convincing. In brief summary, this standard burden of proof is used for “claims which involve fraud, wills, and withdrawing life support” (Cornell LII Wex). When the stakes of getting expelled from school is a real possibility, is that not on the same level as withdrawing life support?

Another fact is that having a university action on file with Cornell makes it harder to get into a dream graduate school. Those that are applying to graduate school now are receiving a question that states “Has there ever been a University Action against you, if so explain (500 words)”. In a majority of cases, 500 words is not enough space to explain how an unjust system is rigged against innocents on a systematic scope. This type of additional hurdle that the Administration wishes to freely provide are like ankle weights to the Cornell Track and Field runners. Graduate school to full professorship is a dream for a good proportion of your student population. Having Cornell being able to freely give out University Actions is like giving handcuffs to dancers. Sure the dancers can still make a passing effort, though they are likely not going to be on the top of the list. In an amendment that supposedly wants to make a climate where “we value diversity and inclusion, and we strive to be a welcoming, caring, and equitable community where students, faculty, and staff with different backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn, innovate, and work in an environment of respect, and feel empowered to engage in any community conversation”, does giving every dancer handcuffs when they miss a beat (something able to be prosecuted with a preponderance of evidence) sound like an environment of respect?

An implicit assumption in this amendment is that there exists bad apples in the Greek system. I agree wholeheartedly and they should be punished. This is clear and clean and there should be no issue with this. Now bad apples do not follow or care for the rules or common morality, such as not lying. Having a bad apple Cornellian is then a very dangerous person since their lies are then solid evidence against their enemies in a preponderance of the evidence standard. 

Finally a key piece of evidence for convictions or university actions are police statements. In a police statement, they interview, take notes and photos of possible pieces of evidence. The police officer is first there to protect the innocent. If you start a fight and call 911 the operator and officer automatically assumes that you are the one being assaulted. The officer is sympathetic to the caller victim’s needs and statements. The report will likely than not be more soft on the caller victim. 


Let us take the above and apply them to Cornell after a preponderance of evidence burden of proof standard is enacted. Take Jane, a first generation, hispanic woman who finally went to her first college party in collegetown and aspires to be a professor in business. She does not want to get a judicial action against her. Also take Chad, a white fraternity “bad apple” from ABC fraternity. Chad attempts to seduce Jane, bringing her to his room, though she refuses and exits the house. A frustrated and angry Chad goes to the bathroom and concoct a plan with one of his buddies. His buddy would slap him and Chad can get Jane in trouble for assault and battery(assault IAW amended CCC). Chad calls 911 and Cornell Police arrive on scene. Chad accuses Jane of assault and the police take his statements more lightly than Jane’s, due to him being subject to battery. Jane does not have any evidence to show that she did not slap him. The fabricated evidence and the 911 call to CUPD is the preponderance of evidence that Chad has to deprive Jane of an easy graduation, transition to graduate school and her dream professorship. All Jane can state, especially without a good lawyer that can navigate the “plain english” Campus Code of Conduct, is that she was in his room and left the room after a failed seduction and the handprint could have come from anywhere. There is reasonable cause to believe Chad’s story that assault by Jane happened via the preponderance of the evidence burden of proof during the UA hearing. Assault is classified as at least a class A misdemeanor in NYS (NYSPL 120.00) punishable by up to one year in jail (NYSPL 60.01(3)a). 

Now let us examine Cornell in the status quo. If the same scenario were to go down, sure the police will be sympathetic to Chad and see the handprint, though there is not enough evidence to prove that Jane did anything wrong. There is not enough to charge Jane with assault and the innocent Jane can go home free without a university action against her. She can go home free and protected from further retaliation and accusations by bad apple Chad. All people are given what was due.


Dear Codes and Judicial Committee and (by cc) the greater Cornell Community,

I hope that my examples and carefully laid out argument proves convincing. I am a current undergraduate senior who does not want their alma mater’s judicial system to enable the worst of our community to oppress the most vulnerable. Those who are in a minority status are continually attacked and subjected to accusations such as stealing and rape, fueled by racist thoughts. I do not want this diverse and amazing body to become a place rife with accusations just to silence their unique and innocent voices. 

In response to those on the board who believe that the preponderance of the evidence provides due process to the accused, I will state the following: Bad apple Cornell fraternity boys are smart, or at least their parents are smart. Once their lawyer parents get hold of the Code, they will absolutely tell their child to call emergency services first to abolish themselves of guilt and have the preponderance of evidence on the accused (who are absolutely innocent). This method does not protect the accused. Instead it subjects them in a huge pit that they have to struggle to get out of. Accusals under the preponderance of the evidence burden of proof hold a ton weight, one that many minorities do not have the resources nor ability to defend against. If the minority student were to get charged with a high crime such as an Academic Integrity (AI) violation, having that preponderance of the evidence burden would certainly make the process educational. This realization would occur when they are subjected to many AIs, accusations made by toxic white fraternity boys that cheat the judicial system, forced to take a leave of absence by the administration and working a minimum wage job reflecting on their prior aspirations to get out of the cycle of poverty that they grew up in. Would you be able to look into Jane’s innocent crying eyes, after getting accused of AIs that she has no evidence of not doing and only the preponderance of evidence, and say “accusations hold weight, wasn’t this process educational?” 

I fear that the instances that I have highlighted will come to being and justice at Cornell will be but a vague memory. 


Respectfully but forever cautious,



Attack on due process. Needs to be further reviewed by students.

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Thu, 2020-05-07 00:49 (user name hidden)

I'm saddened that the university is essentially making a power grab from its students. First off, I can't help but feel like this amendment is taking advantage of the fact that students are away from campus and busy with pandemic-related issues to enact a policy that could hurt the student body without properly consulting the students. I only recently received an email regarding this and have not been involved much in this discussion. There needs to be extensive discussion about this among students.

I have many commitments related to the COVID pandemic, so I will focus on the concern I feel strongest about. I am saddened that Cornell is attacking its students' rights to due process by reducing the evidence standard to what is essentially a preponderance of the evidence standard. An accused student could be held responsible for something he or she may not have done because a committee is essentially 50.1% sure a violation occurred. As you can probably see below, this is an issue that concerns many people. It's unfortunate that many members of Cornell's student body may not realize the implications of changing the standard or worse: will not realize that the standard has been changed until the new amendments are passed. The stakes are way too high for the panel to implement a preponderance of the evidence standard. The possible sanctions include suspension and expulsion, which would mean that again (I want to reiterate this), a student can be suspended or expelled because a panel is 50.1% sure that a violation occurred. This is completely unacceptable and extremely concerning.

I find the comments made on the amendment by the individuals supporting the preponderance of the evidence standard highly offensive. They stated that enacting that standard would be "educational." I have absolutely no clue what is meant by that or how attacking our rights to due process would be educational for anybody. If anything, it takes advantage of students who have not been educated in the field of judicial proceedings as they may not understand the implications of doing so. Additionally, it was stated that reducing the standard would balance "interests of the community," which again, I have no clue what is meant by that. As you can see by the previous comments made here, it is very clear that the community is concerned about reducing the standard and overwhelmingly not in support of the preponderance of the evidence standard. Furthermore, it does not "balance interests of the community, rights of the accused student, and due process" since as it can be seen here, all three concerned parties mentioned seem to agree that standard is an attack on due process. 

I think it's very telling that the majority of the people commenting here are faculty and law students. First off, it shows that other undergraduates have barely had an opportunity to raise their concerns. Second, these are well-informed individuals, many of which study law, that are agreeing that there are many issues with these amendments. Particularly, it seems that many agree that it attacks due process and that changing the standard to preponderance of the evidence does not represent the views of the community.
I'm very disappointed that this is happening. Initially, I was proud that Cornell was one of the few schools that had a code of conduct that promoted students' rights to due process. Now, it appears that will be reversed.



Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Wed, 2020-05-06 22:59 (user name hidden)

Dear Cornell Daily Sun,

Thank you for covering the University Assembly meetings. And specifically for pointing out more bias in this process for individuals who do not have time to attend the meetings.


Dear Codes and Judicial Committee or University Assembly,

Why was the Student Assembly affiliated Office of Student Advocate presenting at the last UA meeting? Is it because that group has a self-interest in the process by wanting to be paid advocates? Is it because they were there to argue for proponderance of the evidence which it is clear from the comments is not the popular choice for Cornell's standard? I looked up the speaker whose name is in the latest Sun article and she was or is running to be a Student Trustee and is also a co-founder of Cornell's ACLU. Interesting. Funny how co-founder of an organization that fights to uphold constitutional rights is proposing to lower the burden of proof and grant the administration absurd power while disadvantaging students. Why is the Student Assembly President also Chair of the Codes and Judicial Committee? There seems to be a conflict of interest. Why are we being asked for comments on one proposal for the Student Assembly to bring another into consideration at the last minute? I don't see that proposal here.

Maybe the students representing the Cornell student body cannot funny understand the magnitude of what they are saying because they are individuals who are graduating or are unlikely to violate the code. Keep the representation where it belongs, under the guidance of legal scholars and with the law students.

I hope that this body asked legal scholars from the law school for their opinion. Reading Professor Garvey's comment makes me worried that they were not consulted and the code is unfinished. 



A young Cornell alumn


Administrative Overreach

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 19:31 (user name hidden)

While I assume the best of intentions in Campus administrators, the proposed changes will invite administrator overreach and potential misconduct that could create a chilling, almost Orwellian environment on campus. Two particular points of disagreement: 

-4.1 Affiliation with Unrecognized Student Organizations or Groups (Previously known as Misconduct Related to Student Organizations or Groups): Assuming these "Unrecognized Groups" are not operating on University property, it makes no sense what right the Administration has to regulate which organizations students affiliate with. If an organization is destructive in a material way, let law enforcement handle the matter. They handle everything from littering to terrorism so they can certainly handle off-campus, unrecognized student organizations. This change could give the Administration coercive power over the social and political activities of the student body (while they are off-campus).

-4.12 (2): "The fact that the conduct targets a group that has historically experienced discrimination may be relevant to a determination of whether the conduct creates a hostile environment." Again, while assuming the best of intent on behalf of those who propose this change, it is vague and open to ideological interpretation. All groups of humans have at some point in time experienced discrimination. The other concern is the "may be relevant" portion. When will it be relevant? Perhaps when it suits the political / ideological motivations of those involved?




Section 4: Prohibited Conduct

Submitted by Stephen P. Garvey on Tue, 2020-05-05 19:18

I teach substantive criminal law at the Law School.  The definitions of prohibited conduct are unnecessarily vague and overbroad. I will give just a few examples:

1.  Student A says to Student B while sitting in their dorm room: "I think I'll steal Student C's computer." Student A gets up to walk to Student C's dorm room, where he believes Student C's computer is located. Before he gets to the door of his own doom room he changes his mind: he won't steal Student C's computer after all. Student A reports Student B to the Office of Student Conduct & Community Services. Section 4.3 (Attempt to Violate the Code) makes it a violation of the Code to "attempt to violate any provision(s) of the Code." Has Student A violated section 4.3, inasmuch as he has "attempted" to violated section 4.23, which makes it a violation of the Code to "violat[e] any federal, state, or local law, regulation, or ordinance," which would include provisions of New York law prohibiting theft? 

2. Student A is riding her bicyle on campus. She gets distracted when she hears a loud bang in the distance. She accidentally runs into Student B. Student B suffers "physical harm." Has Student A violated section 4.4 (Assault and Endangerment), inasmuch as she has "engage[d] . . . in conduct that does . . . result in physical harm"? It would seem so, but does the Code really intend for Student A's conduct to constitute a violation of the Code? On its face, section 4.4 imposes strict liablilty for engaging in any conduct causing "physical harm." A student's mental state with respect to that harm is irrelevant.

3. Student A gives Student B a pencil because Student B said he lost his. Student B uses the pencil to draw on the wall of a University bathroom, which is presumably a violation of section 4.17. Is Student A an accomplice to Student B's violation of section 4.17 and thus (given the way complicity is understood in the criminal law) himself guilty of violating section 4.17? Again, it would seem so, inasmuch as Student A has, pursuant to section 4.6, "aid[ed] . . . another student to commit a violation of the Code." (P.S. Section 4.6 is captioned "Collusion and Complicity." Complicity is a concept known to the criminal law, as is conspiracy; collusion is not.)

4. The definition of bribery doesn't even amount to a definition. It defines "bribery" as "bribery." But that's not a definition. It's a tautology.

These examples would be easy to multiply.

One common response to vague and overbroad prohibitions such as those contained in Section 4 is to claim that those in charge of initiating proceedings against those charged with violating those provisions will do so only when it would be "appropriate" to do so; or in other words, to trust that the charging authority will use wisely the broad discretion vague and overbroad statutes bestow upon it. Perhaps, but those subject to that authority can be excused for being skeptical when that authority gives itself broad discretion and then says, "Trust me." Moreover, vague and overbroad provisions are bound to result in different finders of fact reaching different results when those provisions are applied to the same set of facts. One panel will find a violation; another won't, all in good faith. The process will thus appear arbitrary and capricious, not to mention being vulnaerable to charges of bias and discrimination. Provisions as vague and overbroad as those in Section 4 are an open invitation to such charges.

One might think these provisions are to be lauded because they use "plain English." That would be a mistake. Provisions can be drafted in plain English without bestowing on the charging authority what amounts to breathtakingly broad discretion. The desire to speak plainly should not be used as an excuse (or subterfuge) to vest broad and unnecesary discretion in the hands of the charging authority.


The Preponderance Standard is a Subversion of Due Process

Submitted by Logan Blake Morales on Tue, 2020-05-05 18:11

I think it's that the "preponderance of the evidence standard" in section 6.9 is a clear and convincing subversion of due process. Being able to punish students for simply "suspecting" a student has violated the Code is a dangerous precedent to set, it assumes that the Panel will be always correct about its suspicions (which will definitively not always be the case), and the only standard truly being set is "guilty until proven innocent." This is dangerous and not acceptable.


First of all, any edits to a

Submitted by Cunnie Davenchi Frances Carline Chostel on Tue, 2020-05-05 17:19

First of all, any edits to a judiciary code that affects students should be publicly presented to students for an open forum, town halls, explanation of the policies, and a vote. Doing this on such a random little corner of the Cornell site is shady, and doing it NOW when thousands of your students and staff CLEARLY HAVE OTHER THINGS ON THEIR MIND is VERY shady. At least pretend to be democratic. If y'all can send emails every other day whining about your money troubles and trying to encourage us with empty platitudes, you could have emailses us about this too.

Second of all, instead of punishing consensual drug possession, sale, and use, why not put that fire and fury into expanding the healthcare resources available to students? Y'all know damn well that the workload and culture here push people to use uppers to perform and downers to decompress. Y'all must also be aware of the opioid epidemic that's simultaneously got millions of Americans in its grip, including in the Ithaca community. This would be a terrible example; we know you're a bunch of racist hypocrites at the top, but it'd be nice not to see it so well.

Third, under no circumstances should you extend your jurisdiction beyond the campus. You don't even pay property taxes, on what authority do you presume to control our behavior off campus? Do you own us now? Do you own this town? Is profiting off our money, labor, research, and success rates not enough for you bloodthirsty clowns?

Fourth, don't even pretend to PRETEND to care dor the environment. We know you chose not to divest from fossil fuels. We know you waste hundreds of gallons of food every day, turning it into compost instead of feeding the community. We have no illusions of your true values. This greenwashing charade can stop.
Finally, you need to make these documents EXCEEDINGLY public and put them in more plain terms. This reads like a trap, like it's meant to confuse us into not caring. My writing got me into this school but I still don't know what the hell this is saying. Stop the charade. Do this another time, or not at all, and MAKE IT PUBLIC.