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  • Ojaswita Chand

CADI Chairs Speak Up on Controversial Alterations, Outline Future Path to Punishment Proceedings

An email from the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) dated October 7th, 2023, announced the election of three new student representatives into the Committee Against Disciplinary Infractions (CADI), ushering in the start of the implementation of the revised CADI guidelines.

The email sent out on 30th October further addressed the revisions in the membership to the CADI committee. The correspondence elucidated the increase in student, staff, and faculty representatives by naming all the present CADI members, notably declaring the change of the CADI chair from Professor Arunava Sinha to Professor Debayan Gupta.

Moreover, on 3rd November, Office of Student Affairs issued a mail announcing the CADI representatives elected from the undergraduate cohort, with Nandini Bhattacharya and Niall Pande gathering the maximum number of votes.

Commenting on the increased strength of students and faculty on the committee, Anu Singh, the Director of the Alumni and Parents Office and the Co-Chair of the CADI committee,  told The Edict that the change in membership was undertaken to “allow for a quorum to be constituted more easily.” 

The administration perhaps decided to establish a quicker deliberation process that guarantees the presence of at least one member belonging to the allotted groups within the committee and prevents delays in CADI proceedings.

A notable alteration made in the current guidelines was the change of the vice chancellor’s powers to the CADI committee’s sole appellate authority. 

Newly elected CADI representative Nandini Bhattacharya (UG’24)  spoke to The Edict on power within the committee now being centralised to the VC, criticising a similar change in the power structure in Ashoka’s Committee of Sexual Harassment (CASH) . The aforementioned changes were implemented on 14 June 2022, and largely defined CASH’s jurisdiction within the university, with a focus on what measures the committee can take and what cases they will consider going forward. 

Bhattacharya feels this change has led to indiscriminate judgments in the past, with similar verdicts set to follow after the enforcement of the new guidelines. She believes such a development can harm CADI’s decision-making process by causing biased resolutions and unfair adjudications. 

Given the impact such a decision would have on the nature of CADI proceedings, The Edict raised the question of the repercussions of such a decision, to which Singh responded, “There are no new powers given to the VC.”

Singh also commented on the stricter timeline enforced on filing and validating CADI complaints,  claiming  the committee concentrated on this aspect of the guidelines to “serve all involved parties better.” She elaborated that a longer lapse between the reported incident and CADI deliberations can lead to difficulties in procuring relevant evidence for the case. Furthermore, she asserted the decision would warrant reduced stress for the accused student by ensuring that the result is delivered to them faster.

Additionally, in response to a question about the details of the process for the hearing and investigations of complaints, Singh called attention to clauses 6 and 9 of the new CADI guidelines by quoting “The defendant must file a written statement in response to the complaint and can also ask for a verbal hearing. The Committee will consider these and any other evidence presented or specifically sought out,” over mail. Also, she reasoned that the reference to section 9 signals the responsibility to ensure proceedings are conducted equitably during the given time frame. 

With no further details on the matter, it is inferred CADI proceedings will predominantly remain identical to the specifications in the student handbook, with the only change being the faster timeline imposed on filing and validating complaints.

Bhattacharya  criticized the ‘preponderance of probability’ clause in the new guidelines, which allows the committee to base rulings on the likelihood of a violation occurring rather than conclusive evidence, for being an unfair standard of evidence, believing such a clause can be detrimental to all students given the uncertainty it perpetuates.

An anonymous source, who has previously engaged with the CADI committee on multiple fronts, spoke on the dangerous precedent set in the newly written rules, as they believe that such guidelines put more power in the hands of the committee, allowing them to enact harsh punishments without being constrained by the need to secure substantial evidence. 

However, they also felt that the shortened timeline was an improvement in this respect, with the implicit assumption that it would enable clear and quick communication between students and the administration regarding their status at the university.

Further delving into the 9th clause that discusses fairness and burden of proof, The Edict questioned Singh about the process of validating evidence, given the decision made by CADI to accept third-party testimony and hearsay. She responded, “These will be verified in the same way as the initial complaint and the defendant's statement are verified- through the lens of reasonableness and other evidence such as CCTV footage if available.” 

She additionally commented that it is increasingly likely that such testimonies are in favor of the student rather than against them.

The Edict additionally broached the subject of the guideline outlining the change in the timeline of the reviewing process. Singh stated, “A periodic review ensures that in case the current process is flawed, it can be altered immediately rather than waiting for the annual review.” 

Moreover, she guaranteed that information would be imparted to students promptly through email in case of such changes, and they would call a town hall in case of significant modifications.

To respond to the myriad of queries and concerns put forth by the student body, the CADI committee held a town hall on 16th November 2023. Here panelists Professor Debayan Gupta and Ms. Anu Singh, confirmed that the new guidelines are essentially ratifications of procedures that have been in practice in the past.

 During the meeting, the CADI chair, Professor Gupta pressed that the committee does not function as a government or legal body but instead works to ensure the safety and discipline of the students. 

The committee, Gupta stated, has always utilised evidence based on hearsay and preponderance of probabilities. He justified this statement by reasoning that word of mouth is usually the only available evidence since most people are likely to avoid being caught committing an act against the guidelines in person. 

Both Gupta and Singh further confirmed that the Vice-Chancellor has “always been” the sole appellate authority of the committee. 

Upon being questioned about the accusations made by former CADI student representatives on exclusion from the deliberation process, Singh confirmed, “No, there was no student involved in the deliberations, but we are very happy to take into account suggestions that are related to specific changes, and they will be considered.” 

Singh further spoke on the future involvement of student representatives in the committee proceedings, stating that two student representatives are to be present for every CADI meeting and get an equal vote as other CADI members in the deliberation process, thus making their voice essential to CADI’s functioning.

Together, they spoke on the future of meting out punishment, hoping to integrate more community work and workshops about substance abuse as corrective measures to change the campus culture rather than merely enacting suspensions.

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