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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-At the same time that

Submitted by Nicholas Fanelli on Tue, 2020-05-05 15:42

-At the same time that Cornell is illegally extending their "power" further into the off-campus and un-Cornell related parts of  students lives, they are also lowering their own standards of proof. In order to ward off the outcry that would come from admins, staff and faulty due to this cleary faulty policy, they also decide to have it only apply to students and to pass it when theres not a single person on campus and half of our student body is in the most affected parts of the country. 


Is there any other instituion in the country that so clearly demostrates utter disregard for their own students, its frankly disgusting that just an esteemed university created on the basis of fairness and oppunitnity for all students would pull foolish stunts like this.  


Educational versus punitive intervention

Submitted by Levent V. Orman on Tue, 2020-05-05 15:33

First of all, I agree with all those comments opposing the lowering of standards for burden of proof. I am not going to repeat their arguments.

I would like to go further and suggest that the goal of pursuing educational rather than punitive measures, and expanding the definition of harassment are contradictory. The definition of harassment, especially sexual but not limited to that, is already too expansive and too vague. Especially concerning is the use of the word "subjective perception" in the definition of a hostile work place. People's subjective experiences are not an appropriate criteria for punitive measures. Most importantly, we should strive to a more narrow the definition of harassment to limit ourselves to clear and legally acceptable cases, and try to deal with them through educational means, rather than punitively, as much as possible. Requiring community service or mandatory attendance in educational programs are commonly used in the legal system. We should rely on them even more as an educational institution.


I have many problems with the

Submitted by Jack Eoin Schluger on Tue, 2020-05-05 15:32

I have many problems with the substantive section of this code, which is all I had time to read.

Section 1 Respect for the Natural Environment

This section is b.s.; Cornell is not truly committed to "acting in ways to live and work sustainably" while the university continues to fund the fossil fuel industry which is destroying our planet. You should either remove this section and admit that this is not a real university value, or commit to a real plan to divest from fossil fuels and affirm that this is a real university value.

Section 3.A Jurisdiction

1) "'Substantial threat includes the following: (a) the selling of drugs; (b) physical contact exceeding a shove; (c) hazing; (d) property damage or theft valued over $500; and, (e) unique violations which shall be left to discretion of the Dean of Students as requested." First, please explain to me how selling of drugs is a substantial threat to "the University’s educational mission, the health or safety of individuals (whether affiliated with the University or not), or the University community." Second, part (e) gives the university unlimited juristiction making this entire section completly meaningless. 

2) "The final determination as to whether off-campus s conduct is subject to this Code will be made by the Dean of Students, or their designee." What does this mean? First, off-campus conduct in my view should certinly not be subject to the campus code of conduct. It's litterally the Campus code of conduct. Secondly, why should this decision not be included in the code, but subject to change at the whim of the Dean of Students?

Section 4.9 Drug-Related Behavior

It is well documented how marijuana prohibition leads to disproportion enforcement of these laws on black people, at alarming rates. Yet, this code explicitly enshrines marijuana (or even just the intent to use marijuana) as against the code of conduct. In my experience CUPD is extremely unprofessional and poorly trained, so I see no reason to believe the disproportionate outcomes for people of color would not happen on our campus, just as it has across the country. Further, with marijuana legalization spreading across the nation and likely to happen in NY soon, the inclusion of marijuana in this section is likely to soon have Cornell living in the past, continuing to enforce this racist agenda for no apparent reason.

I expect a response adressing these concerns.

- Jack Schluger, Cornell College of A&S '21


Due Process

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 15:31 (user name hidden)

To reiterate what others have said below: I am confused about how the university treat students who are purported to have violated the Code. It seems that there is no necessity for sufficient evidence that the student violated the code - the only necessity is that there is enough evidence to make others suspect that the student did so. This is ambiguous and indicates that the student is guilty before proven innocent, rather than vice versa. I do not understand how the university could operate on such a principle and still ensure that accused students are treated justly. 


Due Process

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 15:30 (user name hidden)

I wish to simply reiterate why my fellow students are saying, as I believe that it is important for as many students to bring this to light as possible, even if the responses are short and simple. 

Section 6.9 proposes that students are considered to be violating code if there is more evidence of a violation than evidence of not being in violation. This simply changes the status quo of judiciary process, proposing that students are considered guilty until proven innocent. This is a clear violation of due process, and has no place in the Cornell Code of Conduct. 


Due Process

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 15:09 (user name hidden)

Others have already detailed this at great lengths below, but as a quick summary, the proposed changes in Section 8.4 goes against the United States Constitution and even the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This blatant violation of rights by the university is inexcusable and indefensible in addition to this all being poorly timed given the current pandemic.


Reiterating what others have been saying

Submitted by Anonymous Committee Member on Tue, 2020-05-05 14:39 (user name hidden)

Hey, uh Cornell Uni?

Could you fuck off pls?


Cornell Students



Submitted by Taji Alessandra Hutchins on Sun, 2020-05-03 23:21

Because I do not want to needlessly reiterate opposition to lowering the standard of proof or stripping students of due process, I will mention something which has not been mentioned—Good Samaritan. Although it looks like Cornell has a policy of not charging students for alcohol related violations if they call or receive medical help, this is inexplicably left out of the code. This is not a policy which should be discretionary. I hope the administration makes this policy binding.


Taji A. Hutchins

J. D. Candidate, Cornell Law '21


Restorative Justice should be the focus of this code

Submitted by Zach Jagielski on Sun, 2020-05-03 23:01

I have little specific suggestions for code revision, however after reading through the comments of fellow law students/professors, I would like to oppose lowering the standard of proof.

In general, I was surprised when joining the Cornell Community to see how differently their disciplinary system operates compared to my undergrad at the University of San Diego. After being involved extensivly with the Office of Ethical Conduct and Restorative Practices at USD, and dabbling as a campus mediator at Cornell, I can honestly say it's somewhat of a night and day difference. Cornell could really benefit to adopt more restorative practices when responding to violations of the code. Some of these proposed revisions are positive steps forward, but I still feel like the process is highly judicial in nature.

Cornell isn't here to punish us when we make a mistake, it's here to help us grow from those mistakes. This isn't the often-cold-and-uninterested punitive criminal justice system, and yet Cornell holds immense coercivse power with their ability to deal out sanctions. Let's work toward softening how the code is upheld. I think if the process is shifted toward an educational rather than punitive system, it will embolden other communities on campus such as IFC and Panhellenic to adopt similarly-focused models to improve Greek life culture.

There are many excellent professors and students who have a deep understanding and appreciation for Restorative Justice. I can't stress enough how many positive results can flow from an adoption of these practices.

Very Respectfully,

Zach Jagielski

Cornell, J.D. (here's hoping) '21

USD, BA '17


Proposed Changes

Submitted by Zachary R Sizemore on Sun, 2020-05-03 00:20

I share the concern about the system which Cornell University seems to be moving toward that many of my fellow students have expressed in their well-reasoned comments. In some of these proposals, Cornell University has gotten dangerously close to adopting a system which violates the due process of respondents. I completely respect the need to make sure the process is as “educational” as possible, but there is nothing educational about a process which the respondent, and the entire student body, perceives to be fundamentally unfair. With that in mind, I make the below specific comments.

Section 1.2

I support allowing respondents to have an advisor speak on their behalf at the hearing.

I do not see the “educational” value in forcing an untrained, scared respondent to speak on their own behalf. This is especially compounded by the fact that the University puts a full-time, trained professional against this student. I could never say it as well nor with as much experience as they did, but to reiterate a point made by the JCCs themselves: The stress and anxiety which is already inherent in this process will just be made worse if the student is forced to make all of their own statements. As informed as I must assume the Committee is on the process, no one can be more informed than those who have experienced it from the respondent’s side time and again. Given that, I urge the Committee to give a particular deference to the JCCs viewpoint.

Section 8.4

I oppose the Committee’s proposal to lower the burden of proof.

In providing the justification for this change, the Committee only noted that this would make the process “more educational” in the eyes of those who voted in favor of it. Once again, I see nothing educational about this change. The Committee talks in a very abstract way about the process, as if it does not have very real consequences on the accused, providing them with a mere educational experience. But its not just an educational experience for the accused. The withholding of a degree, expulsion, and more is on the table at some hearings. The idea that a respondent would walk away from a trial where they are subject to a preponderance of the evidence standard and summarily expelled thinking about the educational value is simply unrealistic. 

While preponderance of the evidence is the standard traditionally used in a civil lawsuit, I would argue that a proceeding like this warrants a standard higher than preponderance. As stated above, some proceedings have grave consequences at stake. This is particularly significant given the younger age of some of the respondents. A preponderance standard risks erroneously subjecting some respondents at the beginning of their educational and professional careers to severe consequences. This is especially true because some other procedural safeguards which are used in a civil lawsuit are not present, such as the right to a jury trial in some cases. In the absence of these procedural safeguards, I believe the current clear and convincing standard serves to best protect the due process of the respondent.


In conclusion, I write the Committee today as not only a member of the Cornell community, but as a law student who is deeply concerned that a school that I am so proud to attend is moving in the direction of adopting a wholly unfair system where students, potentially representing themselves pro se against a trained professional, are tried in a private hearing and are subject to a dangerously low burden of proof. The adoption of any of these changes is troubling, but the idea that the Committee would propose all of these in concert quite frankly worries me. Adopting some of these procedures would turn Cornell Law School into a place that teaches the value of due process while the University at large shows people how easy it is to rob someone of it.

For those reasons, I ask the Committee to reconsider some of its more fundamental proposals, and to ensure that both the complainant and respondent receive a fair, just, and “educational” experience.


Zachary Sizemore  

J.D. Candidate, Cornell Law School, Class of 2021