4/8/2010 1:01 pm
The Office of Student Conduct at the University of California at Berkeley sent letters to more than 100 student protesters offering them a choice between seven-month suspensions and formal hearings that could result in more severe disciplinary measures.
About 200 UC Berkeley student activists demonstrated Monday against the Code of Student Conduct that the school is using to hand down those suspensions.
Administrators describe the code of conduct as an educational tool, but student critics say that, unlike legal proceedings, it allows for vague charges, delayed hearings, and the use of insufficient evidence to prove guilt.
The protesters under notice of suspension were involved in the Nov. 20 Wheeler Hall occupation and protests during the Nov. 18-20 meeting of the UC Board of Regents and an “Open University” five-day sit-in in a school building staged at the end of the last semester. According to the code of conduct, students accused of violations should receive notification of their charges within 30 days of knowledge of the alleged violation and notice of a hearing must be sent within 45 days thereafter.
“The university has decided—unilaterally, without public notice, and without following the proper procedure—to abolish for 2009-10 the timeline that ensures students a speedy resolution to allegations of wrongdoing,” said Thomas Frampton, a student at Boalt Hall School of Law who is advising some of those now facing conduct charges. “As a result, students’ degrees may be withheld this spring, simply because the university doesn’t feel that students’ right to a reasonably speedy hearing matters.”
Susan Trageser, director of the Office of Student Conduct said that the normal deadline for notifying students of code violations was broken after the policy was suspended over the summer due to the university-wide employee furlough program.
“We still use the timeline as a guideline, but there are instances where we can’t follow it exactly,” she said. “Calendars can get pretty full, and we only have three staff. We try to get everybody in.”
Students like senior Kyla Collins—who spoke at the Monday rally—may miss their expected graduations this year because of the suspensions and disciplinary delays. Involved in the Wheeler Occupation and “Open University” protests, she is facing a seven-month suspension and does not expect to have a hearing for at least a month.
“They cited furloughs,” she said, “which is a slap in the face because that is what we are fighting.”
Doctoral student Callie Maidhof, who also faces a seven-month suspension, said the student conduct process is deliberately outside the public legal system.
“There’s a reason that none of us are facing [criminal] charges; so it’s essentially double jeopardy,” she said. “We already do not have charges in the legal system because they don’t have enough on us.”
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