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When race is the case in the CRC: what to know

Amanda Xi '25

Nov 3, 2023

The Mercersburg Conduct Review Committee, or CRC, is a committee made up of faculty and student representatives who review discipline cases and work to recommend the most suitable response based on their understanding of the transgression and the student’s involvement. Cases that come before the CRC are serious, and there is no “one solution fits all.” 

However, the CRC is dedicated to upholding the values of the Mercersburg community, and that includes addressing issues of racism. “I think it is necessary to address the hurtful speech,” says committee member Sierra Guo, ‘25. “The Mercersburg community comes from all over the world, and while that’s great, we need to make it clear that in our school, insensitive language has consequences.” 

What is accepted in one culture can have a different meaning and be hurtful in another. So what happens when a student commits racially insensitive actions? 

Firstly, before any case reaches the CRC, it begins with a meeting between the student and the Dean of Student Life, where the dean investigates the context and details of the situation and decides if it warrants a CRC review. At the CRC, the committee uses the information submitted in the narrative, agreed upon by all parties involved, to question the student. 

A case involving racially disrespectful language or behavior follows the same detailed process as any other CRC case. “We are very careful in handling them; we know that racism is a very sensitive issue on our campus, and we do our best to address it in confidentiality as we do for all our cases,” says Gabe McGuire, ‘24, student co-chair of the committee.

Cases addressing racism fall under a violation of the “mutually respectful relations” category, which is using “discriminatory language or actions in person or online.” explains Justine O’Connell, Chair of the CRC. “As a committee, we try to come up with a recommendation that is going to help the student change behavior. The purpose of the CRC is to give students space to process what they’ve said and understand why they think it is okay to say these things. And helping them move on from there.” 

Furthermore, to bring awareness to community standards and prevent future cases involving disrespect, the CRC is working with the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion to visit dorms to host discussions about microaggressions and slurs. Dr. Renata J. Williams, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, also a member of the committee, says, “Sometimes people say things they’re aware are racist. And then other times, people are saying things unknowingly. And there’s a way to address that.” 

Because of her unique experience in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Williams has worked with the CRC to craft a school response that is constructive to community. As a result of student gossip and friends talking to friends, there seems to be an increase in racially-related CRCs, and while that seems discouraging, O’Connell sees it differently. She says, “There’s a lot of stuff that kids say to each other that we don’t hear, but now, people are feeling they have the ability to speak up.” 

However, there is still more she hopes the CRC could improve. Despite the emphasis on diversity, there is not a black-identifying student on the CRC. Particularly for the class of 2027, who will have their CRC election soon, O’Connell says, “ I encourage all students who think they would be good in that role to put their name forward. Representation matters, and having those diverse experiences and perspectives matter in something like a Conduct Review Committee.”

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