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OCB Working Group

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In February 2020, Dr. Mona Hicks, Senior Associate Vice Provost & Dean of Students, appointed a working group to examine the Organization Conduct Board (“OCB”) Policies and make recommendations for creating a learning- and student-centered process that also achieves our divisional goal of protecting student safety and wellbeing and preventing harm to the University community.

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The Group Was Charged With

  1. Providing the Dean of Students with recommendations regarding specific modifications to the OCB Policies. 
  2. Considering whether the process should apply to student groups that are not necessarily formal student organizations, such as student-led housing groups like co-ops or non-Greek row houses.
  3. Providing opportunities for Stanford community members to provide input.
  4. Reviewing group conduct processes at other institutions. 

The working group was composed of undergraduate students and staff members from the Office of Community Standards, the Office of Student Engagement, the Office of Alcohol Policy & Education, and El Centro Chicano y Latino.

The working group utilized an online feedback form and hosted multiple focus groups to learn more about how students view group accountability, what group behaviors students find concerning, and how students think the university should intervene to address problematic behaviors when they occur. 

The feedback form was distributed in the following ways: The Vice Provost of Student Affairs Spring quarter 2020 Week 6 Email Update; The Fraternity & Sorority presidents’ listserv; The Fraternity and Sorority alumni advisors’ listserv; The Club Sports officers’ message board; The VSO leaders’ listserv; The Residential Student Staff listserv.  The student focus groups included IFC & ISC, MGC & AFFSA, Club Sports, VSOs, Culturally Based groups, Residential Education student staff, Row House student staff, and non-ResEd student staff.

Students expressed concerns about transparency, a process that took too much time, and a lack of consistency in how concerning behaviors are addressed across groups and residences. The working group also conducted informational interviews with different Universities to learn more about their group accountability processes. Based on this, in November 2020 the working group submitted a report of their findings and their recommendations to Dr. Hicks.  All of the recommendations were approved by Dr. Hicks, and are listed below.  

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General Process 

  • Re-naming: Rename the process to more align with its actual structure and function.  There is no “Board” involved with the current process, and the “Organizational Conduct Board” creates confusion.  One option would be to change the name to the  “Group Accountability Process”.  
  • Non-Greek Row Houses: The process should apply to both registered student organizations and student groups that are not necessarily formal student organizations, such as student-led housing groups like co-ops or non-Greek row houses.  
  • Consistent Conduct Standards: Expectations should be consistent throughout the University and in all types of housing including Greek-row houses, non-Greek row houses, co-ops, student-led housing, and RF housing. 
  • Time to Completion/Efficient Accountability Mechanisms: A revised process must drastically reduce the amount of time between an incident and the outcome. In order to do this, there should be different avenues that violations can be addressed through. These avenues should include:
    • A process for low level violations that requires minimal or no investigation. 
    • An option for organizations to accept responsibility for an alleged violation and predetermined sanctions (similar to the Early Resolution Option for individuals). 
    • Administrative Hearings for mid-level violations. Consider having these cases be heard by a staff member and a student. 
    • Panel Hearings for suspension-level violations.
  • OCB Staff: Decrease length of investigations by designating a member of the OCS staff to direct the OCB process under the guidance of the OCS Director, and provide a full-time administrative staff member to assist the OCS staff in processing cases efficiently and conducting outreach and education.  
  • Transparency: A revised process must be transparent; there should be “tiers” of violations depending on the severity of the allegation and the group’s conduct history. Possible avenues for adjudication and possible sanctions should be outlined for each tier. 
  • Greek Council Participation: Allow Greek councils the opportunity to create and propose accountability processes that the OCS can then refer low-level violations down to. 
  • Violation Reporting: Report organization violations and sanctions on a public website. When possible, communication to student leaders should be delivered in-person.
  • National Organizations: Increase collaboration between Stanford and Fraternity & Sorority Headquarters. 
  • Amnesty: Create an Amnesty Policy for organizations who seek medical assistance for guests/members. 
  • Witness Participation: For certain violations, witnesses should be able to share information without their identity being disclosed to the organization. We should also Reduce the number of times that witnesses have to retell their story. For example, students who are transported after consuming alcohol at a party hosted by a student organization currently have to meet with their RD, OAPE, and the OCS. Some also have to meet with their RF (depending on their RF’s expectations). 
  • Panels & Panelists: The Panel pool should have representation from different types of organizations, including IFC, ISC, MGC, AAFSA, Club Sports, and VSOs. Panelist training needs to be more robust. It should include a more in-depth initial training and shorter subsequent trainings to keep panelists engaged. Outline expectations for panelists up front - the time commitment, when training will occur, etc. 
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  • Educational Focus: The focus should be on educational sanctions designed to create organizational change.
  • Housing Entitlement: Houses and house themes should be treated as a privilege as a reward for good behavior rather than a right given to a select few groups based on historical precedent or current norms.
  • Sharing & Tracking within Organizations: Organization leadership should be required to share with their entire membership the violation(s) that their group was found responsible for and any sanctions.  Outline a process for sanction verification and who is responsible for this. 
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Education & Outreach

  • Mandated Trainings: Partner with the Office of Student Engagement, Residential Education, and the Office of Alcohol Policy & Education to mandate certain trainings for officers and student staff, such as Alcohol & Other Drugs training, and prohibit activity engagement until training has been completed.  Create opportunities for students to proactively learn about University policies and the OCB. Explore ways to incentivize participation in these opportunities.
  • Campus Partners: Provide information to campus partners about what the OCB is, how they can partner with the OCB, and how they can report alleged violations. 
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Other University Policies

  • Clear Expectations: Need a clear directive from University leadership about their vision for accountability that can then be collectively enacted by different offices including the OCS. In order for a group accountability process to be successful there must be a consistent, University-wide, approach to accountability. If the revised process is misaligned with the University’s broader approach to accountability students will continue to perceive the process as inconsistent and staff will continue to feel undermined by their colleagues.
  • Acts of Intolerance Protocol: Need to provide a clearer outline for what students can do when an organization’s conduct is offensive and hurtful, but protected by the Leonard Law. Need to better support students who are negatively impacted by things protected by the Leonard Law. 
  • Guiding Principles: OSE and ResEd should outline guiding priorities for each community to strive towards to support mutual understanding and expectations across communities. (i.e. Standards of Excellence).  Advisors should support student leaders and communities in their pursuit of guiding priorities instead of prioritizing transactional interactions.