‘I believe in what Erskine has to offer,’ says Judicial Council chair
Four key organizations at Erskine—the Student Government Association (SGA), the Student Christian Association (SCA), the Judicial Council (Judicial), and the Erskine Entertainment Board (EEB)—help set the tone on campus as they deal with stewardship of student organization resources, support for faith commitment and service, issues of integrity and discipline, and choices regarding activities offered to students. We contacted student leaders representing each of these campus groups and will be spotlighting each of them. See an article on SGA President Michael Byrd here.
Judicial Council Chair Justin Van Riper, a junior from Sandy Springs, Ga., began his work with Judicial more than a year ago. “I was at a Robinson Hall meeting at the beginning of my sophomore year when the Judicial chair came to the meeting asking for two male representatives from the Hall. I decided to become more active on campus that semester and volunteered,” he explains.
Later, that same Judicial chair started her student teaching and could not handle the time commitment the position demanded, so she stepped down.
“The remaining members of the Council were told that if they were interested to let the dean of students know and I put my name in the running. After an interview with the dean of students, I was chosen to fill the Judicial Chair position.”
Van Riper, who is working on a double major in biology and chemistry, is a member of the Men’s Soccer Team and is completing an internship at the Genetics Center in Greenwood, S.C. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biology.
In addition to his double major and sports team commitment, he serves as resident assistant in Grier Hall; is an SGA senator; is vice president of the Euphemian Literary Society; serves as president of the Climbing Club (and plans to teach a rock-climbing class this semester); is a member of the American Chemical Society; and is on the Intersociety Council.
He has weekly meetings with Dean of Students Dr. Wendi Santee in order to receive information needed to run Judicial Council meetings, and the communication runs both ways.
“I can also act as a way for the Judicial Council and students of Erskine College to bring forward concerns or suggestions to the Student Services office,” Van Riper says. He adds that he worked with Santee to write the Judicial Constitution and aided in revisions of the Pilot, Erskine’s student handbook.
“The Judicial Chair position is there to organize the meetings and ensure that the Judicial Council runs smoothly, following the guidelines in our constitution,” Van Riper says when asked to explain his duties. “I also act as the bridge between Student Services and the Council.”
He notes that Judicial Council meetings are as organized and brief as possible. “We have revised our process to be as efficient as possible to help save the time of all students involved in the process”—members of the Judicial Council as well as students coming before the council.
“This position, although it may be time consuming, has helped my time here at Erskine. It allows me a means to help bring forth the concerns of Erskine students and help Erskine move in the right direction,” he says.
“I believe in what Erskine has to offer. For its current and future students, I want Erskine to be as great as it can possibly be.”
Van Riper is grateful for the assistance of Tre Patterson, vice chair, a junior from Chicago, Ill., and Kasey McNair, secretary, a senior from Abbeville, S.C. As for other student leaders, he calls the current campus leadership “amazing,” and though he can’t mention them all, he noted that Aaron Brown, president of FCA, and Paul Michael Smith, treasurer of SGA, deserve to be singled out.
“Aaron Brown helped lead FCA to be named the best student organization on campus last year, and Paul Michael Smith has worked with every organization to help them fund their events or ideas for change on this campus.”
Finally, Van Riper stresses that the intention of Judicial Council is not to ‘punish’ students who break the rules of the college. “The Judicial Council is there to provide students with fair, appropriate, and redemptive sanctions, intended to aid in the growth of that student,” he says.
“No one on the Council enjoys giving out sanctions to any student,” he insists. “But there has to be some means of getting students to take responsibility, learn and grow from their past mistakes.”
He recalls that the Council has stopped in the middle of a meeting “just to talk to a student, bringing forth genuine concern for their health and future, and offering advice not as a Council with ‘authority’ but rather as peers, fellow students who have been there before.”