When you are asked to be a witness to a conflict that may have involved student misconduct, you are not considered a witness for or against the complaining witness or the accused student. You have been asked to provide information about an incident that is being arbitrated. You do not need to prepare a statement. During the arbitration, you will be asked questions by a Resolution Officer and/or members of a Student Panel, the Complainant and the Respondent. The questions can be both general and specific, and they may cover the incident, other information relevant to the allegations, or your judgment (e.g., Does this frequently happen after midnight?). You should answer the questions truthfully and honestly. The details you don’t know should not interfere with your role as a witness. If you feel the lack of information is making your participation difficult, OSCR will try to offer assistance. If you are a witness in a civil or criminal case regarding the same incident inform the RC of your situation and he or she will help you determine the most appropriate way to proceed.
You have been asked to be a witness because you can provide information that may not be available from any other source or because you can supplement information from a written report. Your participation is valuable to the people involved. If you are out of town or cannot leave your place of employment, you may be able to participate by telephone. You may also write a statement providing relevant information. Both parties will have the opportunity to ask you questions. Remember that you are not a witness for or against someone, even though the information you provide may be more supportive of one person than another. Student conflict resolution is a confidential process; only OSCR staff and individuals participating in the arbitration should know that you have participated. If you are concerned for your safety or for future problems, talk to the Resolution Coordinator (RC). The RC will work to create an environment where you feel comfortable and safe.
Arbitration is very informal compared to court proceedings. Everyone present sits around a conference table, including you. OSCR suggests you wear something nice but casual, as if you were going out to dinner with friends or giving a presentation to a class.
Typically, arbitration is held in the evening and often lasts for several hours. You will remain outside of the conference room until it is your turn to provide information. First you will be asked questions by the Resolution Officer or the Student Panel and then by each party. After you are finished, you may be asked to remain outside the conference room for 10 to 15 minutes to be available for follow-up questions.
Witnesses spend about 15 to 20 minutes in the conference room answering questions, but it is difficult to anticipate how long it will be before you are asked to provide information. The Complainant and the Respondent will be asked questions and will question each other before you enter. You will be scheduled for an approximate time to participate, but expect that you might not be asked into the arbitration at that time. Consider bringing work or something to read; if possible OSCR will provide you with workspace. If you have time constraints, please tell an OSCR staff member.
If someone should ask you to lie, talk with the individual and tell him or her how you feel. Much of the resolution process is based on trust and respect, which does not allow for deceit. You may remind the person that he or she could be charged with a violation under the Statement (as a student) or under a Regents’ Bylaw (as a University employee) for providing false and/or misleading information and for interrupting the resolution process. If you feel pressured, talk to someone in OSCR or withdraw as a witness. Be careful not to interfere with the resolution process by your interactions with others involved in the case. Carrying information between the parties or interfering with the Statement process may discredit you. If you are uncomfortable it is possible that special arrangements can be made.
If you feel you need emotional support, remember that, although conflict resolution is a confidential process, you may discuss your emotions and your feelings with others. Specific details about the case and the individuals involved should not be shared. As a witness you are requested to respect the privacy and confidentiality of those involved. You should not discuss the incident, the people involved, the resolution process and its results with anyone who isn’t directly involved with the case. The accused student has the right to seek legal action if you disclose information about her or his involvement in the resolution process.
If your friend is upset or angry, help them focus on resolving the conflict and getting through the process, not fighting it. Encourage your friend to understand her or his rights, to be truthful, and to attend every meeting and scheduled event. If your friend is found responsible for violating the Statement, urge her or him to complete the assigned sanctions on time. Inform yourself about the Statement and the resolution process, and ask questions. Encourage your friend to become informed as well.
Often, witnesses feel very compromised. However, OSCR encourages your participation. If you are unsure, talk with the RC about the benefit that the information you provide will offer to resolution and the effects your participation or lack of participation may have on your relationships with both individuals. A good friend should not be upset with you for describing the situation as it took place. You may talk over the situation with an OSCR staff member.
If you want to talk your decision over with someone not connected with the incident or the arbitration, consider talking to someone who has legal client confidentiality privilege, such as a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC), an attorney, or a doctor.