‘Grand Forks Herald’ on Caleb Warner’s University of North Dakota Nightmare

By November 1, 2011

The Grand Forks Herald published an article yesterday by reporter Tu-Uyen Tran about former University of North Dakota (UND) student Caleb Warner’s due process nightmare.

Warner’s ordeal, which finally ended last month, began when a female UND student accused him of sexual assault following a sexual encounter that Warner believed to be consensual. Following a disciplinary hearing that employed the low “preponderance of the evidence” standard, Warner was found guilty of sexual assault by UND and suspended for three years. Meanwhile, North Dakota law enforcement officers found no evidence of wrongdoing by Warner. Instead, they charged Warner’s accuser with filing a false report and issued a warrant for her arrest, which remains outstanding.

Under pressure from FIRE, UND finally reopened Warner’s case and vacated the findings against him, allowing him to return to campus. But as Tran reports today, Warner is understandably still hurt and angry because of the university’s treatment of him:

Warner declined to comment for this story, saying he felt too emotional about it.

But his mother Sherry Warner-Seefeld said he’s recovering from the ordeal.

“He’s surrounded by a loving family and hundreds of friends who care about him,” she said. “He’s just the kind of kid that everybody likes. He’s in a place where he needs to be to heal, if he can heal from that loss of trust.”

“He was brought up to believe that the thing that is right and truthful will win out,” she said.

Tran’s reporting also reveals that observers expecting policy changes at UND in the wake of Warner’s case may find themselves disappointed:

What ramifications does this have for UND’s disciplinary procedure?

Asked this question, Lori Reesor, [former Vice President for Student and Outreach Services Bob] Boyd’s replacement, and [Dean of Students Cara] Halgren both said the Code of Student Life is reviewed annually and needed changes are made. Neither can say exactly how or if it will change given [Provost Paul] LeBel’s findings.

What is clear is UND will continue to weigh in on criminal issues, if students are involved, in a parallel process to the criminal justice system.

“The way it happens is that those processes may work simultaneously in some situations, but in others they may not,” Halgren said. “It’s still important that the university has its system to be able to address behavioral issues that may be a concern for students being part of this community.”

In other words, UND students should be on notice: What happened to Caleb Warner can happen to you, too.

Schools: University of North Dakota Cases: University of North Dakota: Accuser Is Criminally Charged with Lying to Police, But School Refuses to Reopen Misconduct Case