Students’ knowledge of rights limited

Eden Cohen, Managing Editor

Most students hope to avoid a run-in with student conduct representatives during their college career. However, it is wise to still be aware of rights guaranteed to university students.

The student conduct code details 18 student rights, such as being allowed to use facilities and being allowed to elect a student government. Though, when it comes to conduct rights, students often do not know their rights.

Junior Sierra Shaub said she would not know what to do if she got in trouble. Fellow junior Katie Uzelac agreed, and said she would not know who to go to for legal mentoring through the process.

“I would probably call my parents,” Uzelacsaid.

Student Conduct Director Todd Shaffer said he walks students through the procedure.

First, a charge is filed against a student. Shaffer said he then calls the student in and they discuss the charge.  If the student sounds innocent, he drops the charge. If the student sounds possibly guilty—or “responsible”—he recommends a sanction, he said.

From there, students can either accept their punishment or request a hearing. At the hearing, students can either argue their innocence or that the punishment is not proper.

A hearing is guaranteed to students with the ninth right listed in the student conduct code. “To have the benefit of fair and equitable procedures for determining the validity of charges of alleged violations.”

The ninth right also promises that the hearing will provide “due process and fundamental fairness to all persons.” In United States courts, this would include the right to an attorney.

Shaffer explained that although students are not permitted to have an attorney during hearings, they are allowed to bring an advisor. This can be an instructor or lawyer, he said.

In the conduct system, a student’s advisor is called an advocate. They are permitted to accompany students to the hearing and pass notes, but not to speak, Shaffer said.

Requesting an advocate is on student conduct’s hearing selection form, though it does not elaborate on what an advocate is.

If students feel their case was not addressed properly, they can appeal, or “petition for redress of a grievance,” as the 11 listed right reads.

Students can file a paper appeal to Academic Affairs President Janet Grady, who then decides if the case is worth another hearing, Shaffer said. If she does decide to hear the case, that hearing’s verdict is the final one, Shaffer said students are allowed one appeal per case.

Uzelac said she did not know students were allowed to appeal cases at all. She also said she did not know that if campus police wish to search a student’s room because of an allegation, the student being alleged against should be present.

This is listed in the student conduct code’s sixth right, as well as promising students protection from “unreasonable, illegal, or unauthorized searches and seizures.”

Shaffer clarified that external police searches, like those done by municipal or state police, do not count under this right, as they are outside university control. He also said that resident assistant-conducted room checks are for health and safety instead of allegations, and also are excluded from this right.

However, Shaffer said resident assistants must receive permission to enter rooms from their area coordinator, and then must give residents a 24-hour notice. They can also check only things in plain sight, meaning they cannot open drawers or containers.

Shaub and Uzelac said they both had heard about the plain sight stipulation.

“Your roommates tell you,” Uzelac said.