Champaign Senate has backed an April 6 student-sponsored resolution calling for student membership on the hearing board that considers sexual violence accusations.
The students told senators the resolution was constructed in response to recent guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights discouraging schools from including student members on campus conduct boards.
They said officials at other universities have misinterpreted the recommendations and had removed students from conduct boards.
"Although OCR has not directly stated the rationale for this recommendation, there is a consensus (the) recommendation is based on the belief students do not have sufficient adjudicator training and are not capable of remaining unbiased," the senate resolution says.
The issue of sexual violence was added in 2011 to the Title IX classification prohibiting campus gender discrimination.
The senate resolution also recommends additional training for students, and faculty and staff members who serve on the board. Training already includes the topics of confidentiality, procedures and other processes.
The resolution says having student members on the conduct board is necessary to provide a fair hearing.
"Students provide critical peer perspective in conduct hearings that administrators, faculty and staff may lack," it says.
University officials supported student inclusion on the boards and said they were reviewing the university's procedures in light of the new Education Department guidelines. The overarching goal is to protect the victim's identity and ensure due process for the accused.
In other business, Gay Miller, a professor of pathobiology and chairman of the senate's Education Policy Committee, was elected as the 2015-16 Senate Executive Committee chair.
She replaces Roy Campbell, a professor of computer science.
Miller ran against Hadi S. Esfahani, a professor of economics.
Kim Graber, a professor of kinesiology and community health, retained her position as vice chair of the SEC. Other candidates included Harry Hilton, National Center for Supercomputing Applications; and Matt Hill and Alex Villanueva, both students in liberal arts and sciences.
Miller said her term as the SEC's leader will be one of "service leadership."
"I want to lead by understanding the issues that faculty, staff and students are finding of greatest concern," she said. "Then I can better advise our campus leaders on ways that will help us continue to be a productive and vibrant campus, full of engaged and creative people."
She said she expects the major senate issue in her term to be the state budget crisis and its effect on the university. She pledged to keep faculty informed and involved in the process.
"Then, through our faculty governance processes, they can provide appropriate and reasoned input about how to deal with the budget constraints," she said.
She said she hopes those conversations lead to a "multiyear approach" to budget planning, rather than the longstanding "reactionary" approach. She said the discussions also should focus on long-term pension funding challenges.
Graber agreed that funding will be the top issue affecting campus in the upcoming year.
"We face difficult challenges, but I am confident that we will do whatever is necessary to preserve our institutional excellence," she said. "We have a bright future ahead and will continue be world leaders with respect to our research, teaching and service missions."
The election for the senate's Committee on Committees was held April 13-15, results were not available by press time. The general election for senators will be held at the April 20 senate meeting.
New senate terms begin in August.