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Bias Checks

What Bias Checks Are

The Student Judicial Charter of 1997, states, in part, the following about the composition of a Judicial Panel:

  • "The Judicial Advisor will endeavor to select Panel members who are not acquainted with either the reporting party or the responding student."
  • "The Judicial Advisor will ensure that no Panel member is biased or has a conflict of interest in a case being considered. Both the Reporting Party and the Responding Student may request the removal of Panel members who they believe are biased or have a conflict of interest."
  • "If a Judicial Panel member discovers that they have a conflict of interest, or a perceived conflict of interest in a case being considered, they may withdraw and be replaced."

The provisions about bias and conflict of interest described in the Charter must not be construed so widely as to eliminate broad categories of panelists. In accordance with the University's Nondiscrimination Policy panelists may not be excused solely on the basis of sex, race, age, color, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin. It is also not reasonable to claim, for example that all graduate students, or all students from a particular major would be unacceptable without giving reasonable cause for each individual in question. Such claims will be rejected by the Judicial Advisor, who is responsible under the Charter for determining whether bias or conflicts of interest exist.

Requests for inclusion of a panelist with a specific area of expertise will be considered and accommodated whenever possible given the constraints of the Judicial Panel Pool.

Procedures for Bias Checks

Initial Bias Check by Reporting Party and Student

Once a hearing date has been set, the Judicial Advisor will give the Responding Student the names of potential panelists. This usually happens during the student's hearing preparation meeting, which should take place at least ten days prior to the hearing. The Reporting Party is also entitled to see the list of potential panelists and to request that one or more of them be excused from that case, stating the reasons why.

Bias Check by Panelists

A week or so before the hearing, the panelists receive a confidential communication listing by name, but not by role in the proceedings, every possible witness, including the Reporting Party, the Responding Student, third party witnesses, and Personal Adviser(s)/support person(s). Each panelist must affirmatively respond to the Office of Community Standards, stating there is no recognizable bias or conflict of interest, or give a brief explanation why there may be a perceived or actual bias or conflict of interest. A panelist may opt to excuse him/herself from that panel, or be excused by the Judicial Advisor. The Judicial Advisor may also consult with the Reporting Party and/or Responding Student with respect to a panelist's response, and ask for their comment on the issue.

Bias Check at the Hearing

At the start of the hearing, after introducing the Reporting Party and the Responding Student to the panelists, the Judicial Advisor will again request confirmation that no disqualifying concerns have been expressed following a visual identification of the parties and the panelists.

Note: Should the Responding Student elect to participate in the hearing via telephone conference call or by paper filings alone, then the student will, in effect, be waiving the opportunity for a visual bias check. The student must discuss any concerns with the Judicial Advisor and make any special arrangements at least seven days prior to the date of the hearing.

When Concerns Have Been Raised

The Board on Judicial Affairs has advised the Office of Community Standards that the following practices and procedures with respect to bias checking are appropriate:

The Office of Community Standards will hear any concern raised about potential bias or conflict of interest given for a specific panelist. Whoever raises the concern, whether the Reporting Party or the Responding Student, must offer, in confidence, a sufficient explanation to the Office of Community Standards about the concern. It is the Judicial Advisor's responsibility to assess the potential bias or conflict of interest and determine if the panelist should be excused. The information provided to the Judicial Advisor will not be shared with the Panel or with the Judicial Officer.

For Additional Questions about Bias Checks

Please call 650-725-2485 or email community_standards@stanford.edu with any questions or requests for additional information.

(Approved by the Board on Judicial Affairs on May 13, 2004)