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New UJC Chair Harper Jones to prioritize creation of an endowment, transparency

Jones hopes the endowment will be completed by the end of the her term

<p>Jones said that student education on UJC’s processes are beneficial to the student body, by allowing students harmed by violations to seek remedies.&nbsp;</p>

Jones said that student education on UJC’s processes are beneficial to the student body, by allowing students harmed by violations to seek remedies. 

Harper Jones, the new chair of the University Judiciary Committee and third-year College student, began her term Monday with a list of priorities that most prominently includes the creation of an endowment to fund the UJC’s various initiatives. While creating an endowment may be Jones’ biggest project, initiatives to increase transparency regarding the UJC’s processes and boost engagement with the community are also key parts of her platform.

According to Jones, the financial resources historically available to the UJC have restricted the organization in its ability to adequately expand and engage with students on Grounds. Jones said that establishing an endowment will be important to provide more financial flexibility for the UJC in the years to come. 

“In recent years, we’ve found that the ability of the [UJC] to innovate and grow can be, in part, restricted by the financial resources available,” Jones said in a statement to The Cavalier Daily.

Jones said an endowment for the UJC could be useful for funding specific initiatives, like creating a UJC module for new students to inform them about the organization’s mission and process. Another way Jones said the endowment could be used is to increase funding for co-sponsorships, which occur when the UJC donates funds to Contracted Independent Organizations to aid in a specific event or project. These co-sponsorships can help spread UJC’s values on Grounds and raise awareness about the UJC’s processes, according to Jones. 

The idea of an endowment for a student self-governance organization like the UJC is not an unprecedented one. Among the two other major branches of student self-governance — the Honor Committee and Student Council — the UJC is now the only organization without an endowment. The Honor Committee boasts a large $5 million endowment, while the Student Council created a $750,000 endowment last semester with plans to continue fundraising for it in the future.

Jones said while the UJC is fortunate to have the Honor endowment as a model when creating their own, raising the funds for the UJC endowment will require them to articulate the differences between the UJC and the Honor Committee. While the Committee only handles cases of lying, cheating and stealing, the UJC carries a more general mandate — it investigates and tries students for alleged violations of the University’s 12 Standards of Conduct. 

According to Jones, the Committee’s endowment provides a better model for the UJC than Student Council’s because, like the UJC and unlike Student Council, the Committee does not receive funding from students through the Student Activities Fee. 

Jones said the UJC hopes to articulate the qualities that make the UJC valuable and distinct through a fundraising campaign in partnership with the Alumni Association and U.Va. Giving

“We’re hoping to [work] internally within the [UJC] to craft and realize a fundraising campaign rooted in the stories of current and past members … of the UJC and an articulation of why our process is important to upholding the values of freedom, safety and respect,” Jones said.

Jones said that soliciting donations from the UJC’s alumni more specifically could be another way to raise money for the endowment. According to Jones, there is anecdotal evidence that the UJC is growing its alumni base despite being a younger institution, and she plans to turn to this base for support during her term.

Despite some ideas for fundraising, Jones says that her focus regarding the endowment will not be on reaching a specific monetary goal, but instead to set the UJC up for success in subsequent years by securing a baseline amount of funding for future initiatives.

“Even if this term is a lot of paperwork and a lot of phone calls … if that means that the term afterwards [has] … funding available, that to me is more important than being able to bring in $5 million within this term,” Jones said.

Another top priority for Jones is one that the UJC has continued to invest in as of late — transparency. The Committee recently wrapped up Judiciary Week, five days of programming focused on increasing student trust in the UJC. One notable event was a hazing mock trial, an event that aimed to show students what a hazing case looks like when it reaches the UJC, since those trials are typically closed to the public.

Students interviewed at the mock trial reported that they appreciated the trial and felt that it did increase the UJC’s transparency. Jones said she hopes to implement Judiciary Week annually and have the educator pool, a branch of the Committee that is tasked with educating the University community on the Standards of Conduct and UJC processes, be responsible for planning this event.

“Integrating [Judiciary Week] more thoroughly into our planning process for the term, and specifically assigning that responsibility to our educator pool is something that I've thought a lot about,” Jones said.

Another way Jones hopes to continue transparency efforts is by making sure the Committee’s statistics reports are widely available and advertised, in addition to being on the UJC’s website.

“Broader publication of our statistics report across Grounds [and] being able to publicize those findings in a more widely accessible way is also something that's really important to me in terms of transparency,” Jones said.

One notable trend in the UJC’s statistics is a continued uptick in Standard 2 violations, which tend to be more severe as these are cases that involve intentionally or recklessly threatening someone’s health or safety. The share of Standard 2 violations, 87.5 percent last semester, is much higher than around 10 years ago, with just 25.5 percent of conduct violations in fall 2015 constituting Standard 2 violations.

Jones acknowledged that raising awareness and transparency about UJC’s processes may not directly decrease the number of Standard 2 violations committed. However, Jones said that student education on UJC’s processes are still beneficial to the student body by allowing students harmed by those violations to seek remedies.

“It’s hard to say whether or not awareness can directly contribute to a decrease in Standard 2 violations,” Jones said. “I do think by increasing awareness about our process, you [provide] students … with an avenue through which they can remedy a harm that's been done to them.” 

Another trend in the UJC’s case statistics that Jones said she would like to address is the increase in cases involving graduate students. Jones said she hopes to increase the number of graduate students in the UJC in response to this rise.

A final goal that Jones shared is creating a new informal case resolution process. According to Jones, this process would be used when individuals still feel they have been harmed by a member of the University community, but the incident in question does not meet all the criteria for a formal violation. Jones said that proposal of an informal case resolution process is still in the works, but — because this process would be a substantial addition to the UJC’s system — it would require either a change to the UJC’s bylaws or a University-wide referendum to be enacted.

With all of these ideas, Jones said she will be successful as chair if she can remain a strong and adaptable leader through any situation, especially given the dynamic circumstances the UJC faces.

“There really is no uniform week in the UJC, and there's no uniform term. The past few terms have certainly taught us that everything is different,” Jones said.

Jones began her term as chair Monday. There will be an official transition meeting for general body members scheduled for Sunday.


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