Do campus tribunals wield too much power?

March 13, 2006

By John Higgins at The Beacon Journal

A Summit County jury found Charles Plinton not guilty of selling drugs to a confidential informant in 2004.

A few weeks later, a University of Akron disciplinary board found him ``responsible'' for ``selling drugs to a confidential informant.''

The difference between those two words -- guilty and responsible -- may not sound meaningful to the average person.

But it's a distinction that begins to explain the secretive world of college justice in which campus committees may re-try the facts of serious crimes after criminal courts have already decided them.

Critics see the hearings as unaccountable Star Chambers marshaled to advance political and ideological agendas.

``Campus tribunals are the ultimate `kangaroo court,' an affront to the rational thinking that is supposed to underlie the academic enterprise,'' said Boston-area attorney Harvey A. Silverglate.

He co-authored The Shadow University with Alan Charles Kors and helped found the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Disciplinary hearings are not trials; they are more akin to union grievance procedures and other types of administrative law hearings that have much looser rules.

Students usually aren't going to get a lawyer for one of these hearings. The university's representative may advise the panel on how to conduct the hearing; in criminal court, the prosecutor would never advise the judge on how the trial should proceed...

Schools: University of Akron Case Western Reserve University Ohio University Kent State University Youngstown State University The Ohio State University