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2017 January 5 - 03:52 pm

Students Dispense Justice on Nebraska Campus

Judicial Board Has Power To Punish Students for Infractions

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) — A room full of college students may not seem like an intimidating scene.

But give them matching black T-shirts, a gavel and handbooks outlining the potential penalties they can impose and this courtroom can make any rule breaker nervous.

At Central Community College-Columbus a group of handpicked students has the power to issue punishments for campus violations through the school’s judicial board.

Unapproved overnight guests, disturbing the peace and bringing alcohol onto campus are some of the more common infractions that land students in front of the judicial board, which includes a jury, judge, bailiff and court reporter who documents each case.

Students appointed to oneyear terms on the board meet in the student services building, gathering around four long tables inside a room above the cafeteria. They are selected each year by college staff sponsors Brenda Preister and Heidi Wilshusen, who typically choose 15 students for the board.

Jury members are paid $9 per hour, the bailiff gets $10 per hour, a judge earns $15 per hour and the court reporter nets $20 per hour. The board meets bimonthly for up to 10 hours per session.

The pay isn’t enough to cover a college student’s living expenses, but most don’t choose to serve on the judicial board for the money.

They want to make a difference on their campus while developing leadership skills.

“We look for students who will be confident enough in sharing their opinions,” Preister said (http://bit.ly/2gtNJlt).

Some want to be teachers, others doctors or lawyers, but they all agree they're on the judicial board to learn how to take charge and make informed decisions. That's part of the reason they were selected by Preister and Wilshusen.

“We like to have a diverse group of personalities, backgrounds and interests so they can each bring in a new perspective,” Preister said.

A major rule is the identity of each defendant remains confidential, so judicial board members must also be trustworthy.

Most of the students on trial in the CCC courtroom have been written up by staff members, instructors or resident advisers for violating campus rules. The cases involve only students who live on campus, with the number of cases varying each month.

Like a real courtroom, each case is read by a judge and defendants are given an opportunity to defend themselves against the allegations before they’re escorted out of the room by the bailiff so the jury can begin deliberating.

Potential penalties are outlined in a handbook given to judicial board members. Getting caught with an unauthorized overnight guest can lead to a $25 fine and an alcohol infraction — the worst offense — comes with a $100 penalty.

The board doesn’t handle every on-campus offense.

Parking tickets are dealt with by campus security and criminal offenses are referred to the Platte County Sheriff’s Office.

Information from: Columbus Telegram, http://www.columbustelegram.com

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