Friday, September 24, 2010

Judge Overrules Action of Provost

At University of Minnesota As

"Arbitrary and Capricious"

(Our provost is a lawyer and serial law school dean. He's a specialist in process and procedure and has even written a book on the topic: "Proportionality Principles in American Law.")

From Inside Higher Ed:

The University of Minnesota violated a former dental student's due process rights last year when administrators upheld his two-year suspension by a student judicial panel without considering evidence he had proffered, a state appeals court judge ruled Tuesday

"The record reveals that the university has no standards or guidelines for sanctions to be imposed by the provost for violations of the student conduct code, nor could the parties articulate one to this court."

"The provost’s decision was made, in part, on the ground that no specific university rule or procedure required “special consideration” of the effect of a particular sanction on a student. However, the CCSB hearing procedures require “a fair hearing” to determine whether a student’s conduct violated the student conduct code and to determine “what, if any, sanction should be imposed.”

The provost’s decision to strictly relate the sanction only to the seriousness of the offense is suggestive of the strictures of criminal law, but this is not a criminal case—it is a student disciplinary matter, which is subject to different considerations. Berge’s proffered evidence was relevant to assist the CCSB in making a reasoned decision, and as such it should have been admitted into evidence by the CCSB and considered in reaching its decision. In student disciplinary matters, the welfare of the student and the interests of the university are both important, and the effect of a sanction upon a student is a proper factor for consideration.

The provost’s decision relied on vague statements that were unsupportable and which make meaningful review on appeal virtually illusory. The provost purportedly relied on “past practice and precedent of the CCSB[] to disallow testimony on the personal and financial consequences of the student involved,” but, other than an allusion to a brief summary of various types of other disciplinary matters contained in the record, the provost’s decision provided no factual examples from which this court could evaluate the consistency of such prior practice or precedent." See Ganguli, 512 N.W.2d at 923 (“The University’s discretion is not unlimited, and its decisions must be explained.”).]

"For all of these reasons, we conclude that the provost’s decision to reinstate the CCSB decision was arbitrary and capricious..."]

The decision by a judge on the state Court of Appeals came in a case in which the university's Campus Committee on Student Behavior suspended Noah Berge after concluding that he had engaged in “[t]hreatening, harassing, or assaultive conduct" against a female student who had accused him of sexually assaulting her.

Although an advisory committee to the university's provost found that the judiciary panel had violated his due process rights by barring him from preventing evidence about the impact a suspension would have on his career, the provost reinstated the panel's ruling. 

The provost's decision was "arbitrary and capricious," the appeals court judge said, because the university lacks guidelines for disciplinary actions by the provost, among other reasons. The judge ordered Minnesota to give Berge another hearing before a new student behavior panel.

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