Student Rights Advisers call for abolishment of judicial processing fee

The $125 fee is a disciplinary charge issued to students found responsible of violating the UM System Standard of Conduct.

The Student Rights Advisers, a group that advocates for student rights during the student conduct process, published an open letter to the Office of Student Accountability & Support on Sept. 9 calling for the abolishment of the judicial processing fee. They claim the fee may create inequities for MU students.

The fee of $125 is charged to any student found responsible of violating the UM System Standard of Conduct and “off-set[s] the costs associated with the judicial process,” according to the OSAS website. Among other actions, violations of the Standard of Conduct include academic dishonesty, disruptive conduct and illegal use of alcohol or drugs.

Doug Reynolds, president and treasurer of SRA and author of the letter, believes the fee is not in the best interest of students and that its institution creates a possibility for corruption.

“It’s not that we’re saying students are being taken advantage of,” Reynolds said. “We’re simply pointing out where things could be issues and why we should address those now before they actually become an evident issue.”

The letter states that the fee supplements wages of the OSAS staff in addition to other costs needed to run the office. In the 2017-2018 academic year, 957 students were found responsible for violations, bringing in approximately $119,625 to OSAS.

No other university in the UM System requires a judicial processing fee. Additionally, the fee is not mentioned in the Standard of Conduct or under the list of sanctions on the OSAS page.

“I don’t think that OSAS can claim that the fee is a deterrent to students if that deterrent isn’t even known to students,” Reynolds said.

MU Spokesperson Liz McCune said the fee is a result of a student initiative from about 15 years ago.

“Previously, these fees had been taken out of student fees,” McCune said. “MSA [Missouri Students Assocation] and GPC [Graduate Professional Council] at the time made the determination that only students found responsible should have to pay the fee.”

If the fee is not paid within two weeks, it is charged to a student’s account. Currently, no alternative is stated on the website for those unable to pay. McCune said the office is willing to work with students who communicate.

“A student who isn’t able to pay can submit a written appeal,” McCune said. “The office would review their situation and make a determination if the fee should be replaced with community service or some other type of outcome.”

SRA wants to work toward a solution as soon as possible. McCune said that a current solution is not possible due to the level of work assigned to OSAS, but they will start the conversation next semester.

Reynolds said OSAS has been very helpful throughout his research and writing process. He hopes SRA will one day partner with the office to be a part of the student conduct process more directly. Universities that also have programs between accountability offices and student advocate groups include University of Michigan and Georgetown University.

“A lot of universities that do have student groups like ours, the response from students is that it actually decreases the workload for their conduct offices,” Reynolds said.

Luke Severt, vice president of SRA, emphasized that the organization’s main goal is to protect the rights of students.

“We’re not trying to pick a battle with OSAS or be petty with them,” Severt said. “We’re here to fight for students and to represent students.”

Edited by Eli Hoff |

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