Conduct and Honor Board Chairs Set to Be Removed From SGA Cabinet in Restructure

Rachel Farber '16Assistant News Editor

Conduct Board Chair Margaret King ’16 – along with Chair of Honor Board Nabilah Ahmed ’16, Senate Parliamentarian Katie Chong ’18, Chair of Elections and Appointments Laura Lubben ’16,  and Dean of Residence Life and advisor to the Conduct Board Rebecca Shaw – decided that the Conduct and Honor Board Chairs will be removed from the Student Government Association Cabinet and all other committees.

Over the last few weeks, Senate has discussed removing the Conduct and Honor Boards from the SGA’s Cabinet. In Feb. 4’s Senate meeting, questions arose over the nature of the Conduct and Honor Boards’ roles.

“By federal law, [Conduct and Honor Board chairs] are prohibited from sharing any information about their cases, so we find that they best exist as a separate branch of our student government, similar to a judicial branch,” SGA President Meghna Purkayastha ’16 said.

One of the concerns is that the Conduct and Honor Boards are seen as confidential, and therefore the chairs and vice chairs cannot fully participate in SGA matters and can provide limited insight from their board.

There is also the question of ethics in committees. The Honor Board chair has served on the Curriculum Committee, and the Conduct Board chair has served on the Student Life Committee.

“Due to the confidential nature of our work, however, it doesn’t make sense to have either position serve on those committees,” Ahmed said. “They’ve simply been another voice in the room, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but doesn’t lend itself well to efficiency.”

King voiced this concern at Senate, noting that the Conduct Board Chair’s primary purpose is to uphold the Code of Student Conduct, “not necessarily critique it.”   

“Being the enforcer of the honor code, I am charged with carrying out a mandate given to me by the SGA. Because of this, I’m not in a great position to then critique the code’s enforcement; doing so would pose a serious conflict of interest and lead to inconsistency in the code’s enforcement from chair to chair, which is simply bad governance,” Ahmed said.

“When I am required to sit on Cabinet or other committees and vote on matters, I am essentially offering my personal opinion, which does not represent the Conduct Board as a whole. The Conduct Board interprets the Smith code of conduct on a case-by-case basis and comes to a consensus for each case it hears to determine whether or not a student is responsible,” King said.

“I do not believe the chair of Conduct Board should also be required to publicly critique or vote on the same policies I have been entrusted to uphold,” she said.

This transition is part of the larger SGA restructure that has been in process for the past three years.  The restructure, perhaps most significantly, changed representation on Senate.  Before the restructure, each house had to elect two or three senators, which was viewed by many as ineffective.  Currently, Senators represent their class in their area of campus rather than representing each house. There are now about 40 senators – two for each class in each area of campus.

Whereas the restructure of Senate representation worked to consolidate the legislative body of SGA, the proposal to move the Conduct and Honor Boards from the SGA Cabinet is an attempt to consolidate the executive branch.

“By consolidating our executive branch, we can move forward in grouping student leaders together who can also better support each other in a more intimate setting,” Purkayastha said.

“One major change is that the appointment process for new Conduct Board members, which has been internal, will now go through [Elections and Appointments]. This will keep Conduct Board connected to SGA and under their purview. These bylaw changes are being updated currently and will soon be voted on by Senate,” King said.