by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Disciplinary panels — including ones that involved students — were set up in the ’60s and ’70s to adjudicate violations of schools’ honor codes, such as plagiarism. But as university faculty and administration began to see their role as more expansive, these panels experienced “mission creep” and started hearing cases of actual crimes. In 1980, University of Virginia assistant dean of students Edward Golden looked into how colleges were handling these matters. Among the 58 institutions he surveyed, 36 percent did not allow cross-examination, 55 percent did not guarantee an impartial judge or jury, 60 percent did not guarantee students the right to confront their accusers, and 91 percent did not make witnesses testify. In 1999, with their book Shadow University, Harvey Silverglate and Alan Kors documented how colleges across the country had created disciplinary systems that violated students’ due-process rights.
Decades later, schools are paying lip service to the idea of neutrality. At the University of Virginia, for instance, panelists are trained in “how to determine credibility; how to evaluate evidence and weigh it in an impartial manner; how to conduct prompt, fair, impartial, and thorough investigations and hearings that ensure due process, protect community and individual safety, and promote accountability [and] confidentiality.” But this is absurd: We have an extensive legal system that is trained to deal with exactly such matters.