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Senate meets to discuss student petition, Campus Compact

| Friday, February 5, 2021

The Notre Dame student senate convened Wednesday to discuss a student body petition and select new members of the Committee of the Constitution. 

Following the nomination of sophomores Dan Law and Benjamin Erhardt, discussion commenced on the petition circulating the student body in regards to the recently announced Campus Compact. Junior Thomas Davis, Judicial Council president, verified the signatures and presented on behalf of the petitioner. The document, which held approximately 850 signatures at the time of the meeting, demands the disciplinary proceedings associated with the Compact honor students’ right to due process. The Compact instituted two new expedited policies regarding COVID-19 protocol: COVID Probation and COVID Dismissal.

“COVID Dismissal is a form of dismissal with the opportunity to apply for readmission, provided the student satisfies certain criteria communicated to them by the Office of Community Standards (OCS) at a time they were dismissed,” senior Michael Dugan said when giving background on the document. “COVID Probation, on the other hand, is a status that will render a student to face COVID Dismissal from Notre Dame if they violate associated rules within the Campus Compact.”

(Editor’s Note: Dugan is a former News Writer and Systems Administrator at The Observer.)

Dugan said the Campus Contact Administrative Process, which covers these protocols, has received significant opposition from the student body.

“[There are students] who are concerned about the potential for Notre Dame to arbitrarily and capriciously punish students who are accused of violating the Campus Compact without giving them an adequate chance to prepare and present their own defense,” he said.

Dugan said the process, as currently defined by the University, “does not give students sufficient time, nor an adequate setting, to defend themselves against allegations that have been issued by the Office of Community Standards.”

The email to students provided by [vice president for student affairs Erin] Hoffmann Harding and [vice president for Campus Safety and University Operations Mike] Seaman included a note that the Campus Compact Administrative Process would allow the University to act swiftly to address COVID violations,” Dugan said. “This is true. The swift deadlines imposed by the process will allow the University to unabashedly discipline students with breakneck speed. But swiftness is not the only pressing consideration in creating a just disciplinary process.”

If they make no modifications, Dugan said, then the University must justify the current process.

“Notre Dame must not skimp out on due process,” he said.

In response to this, the petition calls for a seven-day period during which the accused student can review the evidence brought against them, following the same policy as hearings for non-COVID issues; this time would also give students the opportunity to contest these allegations. Furthermore, the petition requests that the University guarantee students the right to elect a hearing setting and call witnesses to testify in their defense. It additionally asks Notre Dame to grant the right to meaningfully appeal decisions against students, even those regarding students not facing COVID Dismissal.

When the floor opened up to the other members of the senate, a student questioned what Dugan’s response would be to the argument that the University must act as quickly as possible due to the fact that if they wait too long, things could get out of hand because of the nature of the pandemic.

“If the University, for example, is attempting to dismiss a student under the current rules, even with the expeditious, it will take five days,” Dugan said. “The student will get a notification. Then what they will do is have two days to respond. OCS then, if they’re instant in their rejudgement, the student then has three days to make an appeal. If they are not instant, if it takes 12 hours, if it takes 24 hours … well now we’ve just lengthened it to six days.”

Ultimately, the petition was overwhelmingly passed in a 31-0 vote, with one abstention, thus ending Wednesday’s meeting.

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