Early draft of faculty letter slamming UC’s kangaroo court

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Here is an early draft we obtained of the UCSC faculty letter slamming the UC’s kangaroo court process. Over 100 faculty have signed on. We’re working on getting the final version…

12 April 2010

Dear Chancellor Blumenthal:

We write as faculty alarmed by the University’s disciplinary actions regarding the November 19-22 activities in and around Kerr Hall, and more specifically, the “Voluntary Resolution” agreements recently issued to students by Director of Student Judicial Affairs, Doug Zuidema. We worry that the implementation of the student judicial procedure in these cases violates constitutional due process and basic principles of fairness. These disciplinary actions also create a chilling effect on political dissent in the campus community.

Of particular concern are the following:

  1. The “Voluntary Resolution” agreements skirt due process procedures by asking students to incriminate themselves for “alleged violations” of University regulations committed in relation to activities in and around Kerr Hall without sufficient presentation of the evidence against them. According to the ACLU, the right to due process prior to the imposition of discipline is a fundamental constitutional protection, especially at institutions of higher learning (ACLU Letter to Chancellor Birgeneau, April 6, 2010, p.9, emphasis added). It is also a principle of basic fairness to allow the accused the opportunity to see the nature of evidence against him or her before deciding whether to enter into what amounts to a plea bargain.
  2. The “Voluntary Resolution” agreements hold individual students accountable for acts in which they may not have engaged. Addressed to individual students, these letters describe, in general terms, events and acts alleged to have occurred in and around Kerr Hall, including property damage, and then accuse the individual in question of violations of the Code of Student Conduct without indicating specific acts that s/he is alleged to have taken. It seems that Student Judicial Affairs is more intent on punishing students than determining the facts of the case.
    1. The situations of two students merit special mention in that they well illustrate Student Judicial Affairs’ disregard for determining the facts regarding each individual’s involvement in the Kerr Hall occupation: one student accused of violating the Code of Student Conduct is a student journalist who was covering the occupation for the Project Newspaper Collective; another is one of five students who entered into negotiations with representatives of the administration (the other four were either never summoned or held not responsible).
  3. The identities of the staff alleging that specific students engaged in specific violations remain anonymous. Again, fairness dictates that before entering a plea bargain, the accused should be allowed to see the evidence against him or her.
  4. These “Voluntary Resolution” agreements appear to be a form of coercion: students may either opt for self-incrimination (in the letters’ proposed resolutions) or risk more extensive, but unstated, punishment.
  5. Finally, aside from problems in due process, we also note that the disciplinary procedure has proceeded without consideration of students’ rights of free speech and assembly. The actions at Kerr Hall were collectively executed by a group of considerable size and diversity, in public expression of grievance against the University. The proposed resolution does not separate accusations of criminal behavior from protected speech acts; it implies that any form of participation in these actions is tantamount to vandalism. Such an equation will have a chilling effect on necessary speech and debate in the campus community. The “Voluntary Resolution” agreements present an implicitly constant threat of criminalization in cases where the University has a substantial stake in minimizing the effects of a coordinated protest action.

We request that due process and fair treatment be honored in this and future disciplinary actions not only because we wish to defend students’ right to assemble and protest, but also because we, as faculty, have a profound interest in the health of the University as a place of free exchange, inquiry, speech, and assembly. The University can rightly preside over disciplinary processes as part of its charge to educate students and to coordinate an academic community in accord with shared principles, but we fear that the University’s disciplinary process has gone awry in this instance.

Therefore we, the undersigned, request that no students be separated from their student status or be charged with restitution for participation in the events in and around Kerr Hall, or for other political actions past and future, unless legitimate material evidence links them to specific acts of property destruction. We also call for a suspension of the student disciplinary procedure in these and future cases involving political dissent until the problems we note have been addressed.

We note that section 104.20 in the Student Policies and Regulations Handbook states that “final authority for administration of student discipline rests with the chancellor.” We are optimistic that you, as a University administrator acting in the public trust and with an intrinsic interest in the protection of free speech, free inquiry, and open dialogue, will recognize the urgency of these procedural failures and take immediate steps to correct them.

Sincerely,

Tim Duane, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies

Barbara Epstein, Professor of History of Consciousness

Carla Freccero, Professor of Literature

Deborah Gould, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Miriam Greenberg, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Gail Hershatter, Distinguished Professor of History

Emily Honig, Professor of History

Helene Moglen, Professor Emerita of Literature

Craig Reinarman, Professor of Sociology

Lisa Rofel, Professor and Chair of Anthropology

Megan Thomas, Assistant Professor of Politics

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