University moves to expedite disciplinary policy in cases of violence

Cassandra Jaramillo

President Gregory Fenves announced Wednesday that the University plans to update its institutional disciplinary rules to expedite investigations into cases of violence.

Fenves issued a statement saying immediate change was needed, a day after The Daily Texan reported on a racially-motivated assault that occurred in February. 

The University hasn’t reached a resolution more than a month after the victim reported to the Dean of Students. Fenves said the dean had already been reviewing the current institutional disciplinary policies for several months and that the attack highlighted an immediate need to bring change. 

“It became apparent that when a student is accused of a violent act, that we need to work more expeditiously after this recent unfortunate, disturbing incident took place in February,” Fenves said.

Fenves said the University is working on shortening the timeline of investigations — while still ensuring due process for the accused — and giving the dean the discretion to impose interim suspensions on accused students.

“We need the tools to do an interim suspension of the student until there’s a resolution of the case,” Fenves said. “That’s a very important part of the policy.”

Cody Young, the victim of the racially-motivated attack, said he wanted to wait before commenting on the proposed policy change.

Political communications senior Veronica Rivera said if the changes are successfully implemented, it would be a step in the right direction, but she wishes the University had acted proactively rather than in reaction to Young’s assault. 

Christle Nwora, director of Operations of Afrikan American Affairs in the Multicultural Engagement Center, said it was a wise decision to give the dean the discretion to enact suspensions while investigations are ensuing.

“It’s strange that previously the university was keeping someone that was violent in the same space, and the decision to give the dean the power is backing it up with tangible action,” humanities senior Nwora said.

The University said the office is hoping to implement the new policies as soon as possible, and it could be within days or weeks. Fenves said he had already given the chancellor and executive vice chancellor an outline of intent.

The new updated policies do not include instances of insensitive speech, but University spokesperson Gary Susswein said it plans to review all allegations of rule violations, including those of non-violent acts of discrimination.

Ryan Miller, Campus Climate Response team director, said students can report cases of bias to his team, which seeks to improve the campus environment, support students and coordinate responses across the University. 

“From CCRT’s perspective, we know that all these incidents, whether they violate policy or not, have a detrimental effect on whether or not students feel included on campus,” Miller said.

Fenves condemned the attack and expressed sympathy for victims of violence at the University.

“We want to do the best we can so that victims know that the University is committed to the enforcement of policies and the rules,” Fenves said. “And if those are broken, we will take quick actions following due process to make this a safer place for the victim and for all our students.”