Student Organization Oversight Committee Bylaw Update

TRINITY COLLEGE STUDENT GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

CODE OF BY-LAWS

Updated: November 29, 2020

Chapter 1: Complaints Against SGA-Recognized Student Organizations

Section A: Complaint Initiation

  1. Individuals aggrieved by the actions of an SGA-recognized student organization may file a complaint against such an organization with the SGA Student Organization Oversight Committee (SOOC) alleging that certain rules, guidelines, expectations, or other standards of the SGA have been violated by the respective organization, pursuant to Article VII §10 of the Constitution. The processes required by this Chapter are applicable retroactively to complaints already filed with the SOOC insofar as a formal complaint process has yet to be initiated.
  2. The Chair of the SOOC shall review the complaint and may consult with other members of the SOOC, members of the SGA Executive Board, and/or SAIL staff and the Dean of Students Office to make a determination of whether the complaint has sufficient merit to proceed, that is, does the complaint have an allegation of an above-referenced violation within the purview of SGA, and does the complaint offer some evidence in support of the charge. Should the charges be determined to lack sufficient merit, the complaint will be dismissed by the committee. Should the charges be determined to have sufficient merit, the complaint shall be served to the respondent, thus initiating the formal complaint process. The Chair shall, in consultation with the Dean of Students Office, also determine whether or not the complaint alleges a violation of College policy, in which case those components of the claim will be referred to the Dean of Students Office for a disciplinary review.
  3. At this point, the respondent shall respond to the complaint by denying the charges, admitting the charges, or electing to not contest the charges. The respondent may also request that non-binding mediation between the parties be facilitated by SGA in lieu of an answer to the charges. The complainant must agree to such mediation, at which point the complaint process shall suspend and informal mediation may begin; should a party be unsatisfied by mediation efforts, the party may choose to end mediation and resume the complaint process.
  4. If the respondent elects to deny the charges, the respondent should offer evidence and arguments to refute them in the response. At this point, the SOOC will schedule a hearing to adjudicate on the matter of the complaint. Should the respondent decline to contest the charges, this process shall still be effectual regardless of the respondent’s presence at the hearing.

 

Section B: Hearings, General Provisions

  1. SOOC hearings shall provide the opportunity for both parties in a complaint to be heard equally and to have such complaint adjudicated fairly and on an unbiased basis.
  2. The Chair of the SOOC shall preside over such hearings, and the members of the SOOC shall be the voting members in adjudicating the complaint. Members of the SOOC who are party to the complaint must recuse themselves prior to the hearing, at which point the Executive Board may appoint another SGA member to serve as an alternate.
  3. The SOOC must publish the time(s) of the hearing to both parties, the complainant and the respondent are expected to attend all sessions of the hearing. The SOOC reserves the right to proceed without a party should the party elect to not attend a session.
  4. The Chair of the SOOC, the complainant, and the respondent have the right to name material witnesses and introduce evidence, provided such evidence and witness testimony is credible and relevant to the complaint. A list of both party’s witnesses and all evidence to be introduced during the hearing must be submitted to the SOOC forty-eight hours prior to a hearing. Should a party wish to offer evidence that implicates another individual who fears retaliation, the SOOC may take steps necessary to verify the evidence independent of a party to ensure its credibility. After credibility is established to the SOOC’s satisfaction, the evidence may be admitted without the identifying information. The SOOC may grant exemptions to this time limit in extraordinary cases where new evidence/witnesses have been identified that would not otherwise have been outside of the forty-eight hours before the hearing. Each party is responsible for notifying its own witnesses of the time and place of the hearing and to ensure their presence.
  5. The Chair shall preside over the hearing and shall rule on all points of order and objections. Parties and witnesses must behave in a civil and orderly manner at all times in the hearing.
  6. The hearing shall be recorded (which does not include the SOOC’s deliberations) and such recording shall be maintained by the SOOC until the matter is fully adjudicated and appeals are exhausted. Should a party seek to appeal a decision of the SOOC, it may make a request indicating such to the SOOC Chair within ten days following the publication of the final decision to both parties. The Chair will then refer the matter to the SGA Judicial Commission for review, at which point the matter shall be reviewed according to the Commission’s rules and procedures.
  7. The attendees of the hearing shall include both parties, any witnesses called by each party, though the witnesses may be sequestered at the request of any party, the members of the SOOC, and a member of the Executive Board, who may participate in the complaint process as a member of the SOOC but shall not have a vote in the final adjudication; the SGA Parliamentarian may also be in attendance but shall not be permitted to participate. The Chair may also invite a Dean of Students to the hearing along with a SAIL staff person. Each party may also have an advocate. Advocates may participate in the hearing session on behalf of the party they represent and may consult freely with the party they are representing. Advocates however may not answer questions on behalf of their party, but may make opening statements, closing arguments, and question witnesses and the opposing party. Advocates may also make objections pursuant to these procedures. An advocate must be a current student without formal legal training.

 

Section C: Hearings, Sequence

  1. The Chair will call the hearing to order and explain the sequence of the hearing as provided for in this section. The Chair will proceed to publish the complaint and response to all attendees.
  2. The SOOC shall hear first from the Complainant who may make an opening statement, after which the SOOC may question the complainant. The respondent may then question the complainant. Next, the respondent may make an opening statement, after which the SOOC may question the respondent and the complainant may in turn question the respondent.
  3. If witnesses have been named, they will appear next in an order determined by the Chair. Each witness may be questioned first by the party which called them and then by the opposing party. The SOOC may then question the witnesses. Witnesses may be recalled by the SOOC as is necessary following their initial testimony.
  4. After all witnesses have appeared and been questioned, the SOOC will question the complainant and the respondent. The complainant and respondent will then be able to question one another and make closing arguments.
  5. The Chair shall then adjourn the hearing. At this point, the recording shall cease and the SOOC members shall begin private deliberations.

 

Section D: Final Adjudication

  1. Within five business days after the hearing adjourns, the SOOC shall issue a final adjudication in the matter. The adjudication shall include the SOOC’s findings of fact, interpretation and application of pertinent SGA rules, guidelines, and expectations, etc., ultimate disposition of the complaint, and, if the complainant prevails, orders and/or directives deemed necessary by the SOOC. The standard of proof shall be preponderance of the evidence.
  2. Retaliation against any individual involved in the complaint process is strictly prohibited, and complaints of such retaliation may be made to the Executive Board, to which the below penalties may also apply.
  3. SGA-recognized student organizations are obligated to abide by such orders and/or directives. Failure to do so shall result in the SOOC referring the matter to the Executive Board, which shall, after confirming that such orders and/or directives were not followed through its own procedures, administer sanctions and penalties against the organization that may include the following:
    1. Freezing the organization’s account as maintained by SAIL
    2. Temporarily prohibiting the organization from requesting funds from Budget Committee
    3. Deducting money from the organization’s account
    4. Restricting the organization from receiving funding from Budget Committee on a permanent or temporary basis
    5. Referring a resolution to the Senate which would derecognize the organization
    6. Any penalty within the authority of the SGA that is deemed appropriate

Multiple refusals to comply may result in multiple penalties of increasing severity.

  1. Any final adjudication by the SOOC, and subsequent penalization by the Executive Board, is subject to appeal by the Judicial Commission.