Habeas Corpus applies to students, too

By Maroon Editorial Staff

Everyone should have a right to a fair trial—and a fair appeal of that trial. As it stands now, the University’s disciplinary procedures exclude adequate opportunity for appeals. Students accused of disciplinary offenses are not always guaranteed the opportunity to express their side of the issue or speak to the administrators handling the review of the initial disciplinary decision. The only criteria currently considered for a case’s appeal are procedural errors and information not brought up at the trial. The Maroon believes that the merits of one’s argument should be among the criteria in the appeals process.

It is true that the first hearing of a student’s case is received and handled with all due process: The student is present when the case is considered initially, and he has a right to speak for himself.

However, if a student is deemed guilty of a College or housing offense, his rights start to fade away.

A student can seek an appeal in two situations: If the student has committed a housing offense, his case is referred to a housing administrator. If the student’s offense is of a more general nature–such as plagiarism–the case is referred to the College disciplinary committee. In either case, after a guilty verdict is handed down, it is nearly impossible to overturn it with the current appeal system.

If a student appeals the decision, a new board consisting of two faculty members and one student is convened. However, the accused student can be excluded—seemingly at the whim of the committee—from the very process reviewing his guilt or innocence. This policy flies in the face of habeas corpus, a right deeply ingrained in American society. It seems ironic that the very institution which promotes the stimulation of the life of the mind would disengage from this application of rights-based procedure.

Although there are benefits to the levels of heightened confidentiality practiced by disciplinary administrators, a shield of secrecy is not conducive to a fair outcome, especially when a student’s fate is being decided by those not necessarily taking his own argument into consideration.

Seeking appeal is a fundamental right that should not be treated as a mere formality.