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  • Hiyaneijemmy Das

CADI Guidelines Altered; Powers of VC Ambiguous

On Friday, September 29th, the student body received an email regarding changes to the guidelines and regulations on ‘Disciplinary Proceedings’ from the Registrar’s Office. A look through the document reveals multiple changes compared to the previous regulations laid out in 2022 Student Handbook. The most prominent include those to the structure of the Committee Against Disciplinary Infractions (CADI), the process of validating and resolving complaints made to CADI, and the role of the Vice-Chancellor within the committee.


While regulations around substance abuse and security concerns essentially remain the same, there are now innumerable additions to what qualifies as a violation. Activities like breach of quiet hours, misuse of ID cards, and use of heavy electronic appliances will now be taken up either by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) or by CADI.


Clause 2 articulates the actions that are regarded as violations of CADI guidelines. Previously, the actions “in violation of the University’s mission of ensuring a humane, just and safe campus” were deemed violations. Now, actions that infringe upon Haryana state law or the national law will be deemed CADI violations, arguably lending the guidelines more objectivity.


NEW STRUCTURE AND ROLES


One of the most notable changes is to the structure of the Committee. Earlier, it was composed of 13 members (9 from the faculty and staff, 4 from the student body). The Committee composition has now substantially increased to 21 members; 4 student representatives from the undergraduate and ASP cohorts, and 2 from the YIF/MLS/MA cohorts, with the remaining 15 being faculty and staff members appointed at the discretion of the Vice-Chancellor.


Previously, there was an explicit mention that 1 member be selected from the ASP, MLS, PhD, or Master’s programs; there is now no mention of the PhD program.


The guidelines emphasise the process “will seek to encourage gender diversity amongst candidates.” While it was stipulated earlier that of the two undergraduate members of CADI, one must be male and one female, there is no such gender requirement or allocation in the latest guidelines.



PROCESS OF FILING COMPLAINTS


The window for filing a complaint has been drastically reduced from 10 days to a mere 3 days from the incident. In addition, the window within which CADI must confirm the validity of the complaint has also been slashed from 10 days to 5 days.


A glaring difference is the complete absence of explanatory clauses regarding the hearing and investigation process in the new guidelines.


Previously, the rules explained at length the entire process: from communicating with the complainant and defendant to making a final decision. The new guidelines, however, only briefly explain the process of validating a complaint, and the process of arriving at a decision.


The entire process from the acceptance of complaints as valid to the final rulings, shall not take more than 20 days. This is in stark contrast to the earlier rules, which necessitated hearings to be concluded in 15 days and the subsequent decision-making meetings to be held within 10 days of ‘completion of all procedures’. The new guidelines, thus, set a stricter timeline, presumably to fast-track the process.


INCREASED POWER OF VC/CHANGE IN APPELLATE AUTHORITY


Another change has been made to the Appeals Committee, the appellate authority regarding CADI cases. Earlier, it was mentioned that the committee would be composed of the Vice-Chancellor, the Pro Vice-Chancellor, and the Dean of Student Affairs. In a divergence, the appellate authority now places the power solely in the hands of the Vice-Chancellor (Clause 10.3). The time for communicating the decision is slashed yet again: the committee must now provide a decision within 10 days of the appeal, down from the earlier stipulation of 15 days.


Clause 14 states: “Nothing in this document limits the powers of the Vice Chancellor to take suo moto cognizance of any disciplinary matter not covered in this document…”. Such a clause implies that the VC is beyond the limitations of the very committee he is chairing and indeed, wields power CADI does not claim.


Earlier, while proceedings documents could be copied/removed for legal and administrative purposes with prior approval of either the Member Secretary or the committee Chair, now the approval can be given solely by the VC.


CLAUSES AND QUESTIONS REGARDING FAIRNESS


Finally, two clauses in the new guidelines raise questions about the effectiveness of the procedure. Clause 9.2 allows CADI to use any information, even hearsay and third-party testimony if they deem it ‘relevant.’


Avi Sharma, UG ’24, a representative on the committee, emailed the student body immediately after the new guidelines were shared, questioning the university’s motives and arguing that the administration “have been trying to take away all liberties little by little.” Referring to clause 9.2, Avi says, “Ashoka has literally given up any responsibility for having to produce any proof to f*ck you over”.


The Edict reached out to CADI reps for comment. Requesting to remain anonymous, an undergraduate representative confirmed that they had not been kept in the loop regarding any recent CADI proceedings, or the drastic change in guidelines.


Sachin Sharma, Registrar, Ashoka University, did not respond to The Edict’s request for comment. Comments are awaited from Mr. Sharma and the Registrar’s Office.


Furthermore, the rules suggest that decisions can now be made on preponderance of probabilities (whether it is more likely than not that a violation occurred) and not on conclusive evidence. Clause 9.4 reads: “University authorities will make every effort to adhere to the procedures outlined in this document. Deviation from these procedures do not automatically invalidate a decision or proceedings.”


OTHER NOTABLE CHANGES


The position of Member Secretary (responsible for maintaining case records and recording minutes) has also been changed. Earlier, the role was filled by a member of CADI itself. However, the new guidelines empower the VC to appoint as Secretary someone who will not be a member of CADI, and therefore, cannot exercise voting rights.


Another change has been made to the review period- the guidelines, earlier subject to annual review, are now subject to ‘periodic’ review. There has been no mention of what this time period would be, and the guidelines may be revised “whenever the need arises.”


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