Due Process For College Students Bill In A House Committee

March 24, 2015

By Dave Thompson at Prairie Public News

A House committee is considering a bill that would allow a college student facing suspension or expulsion to have a lawyer present at the hearing.

The Senate has already passed the bill.

“It’s shocking to most people that, in 2015, students don’t enjoy that right, given how much is at stake when one’s education is on the line,” said Joseph Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “There’s a never ending list throughout the country of students expelled in hearings where they’re not allowed to have lawyers actively participating on their behalf. That leads to unreliable findings and unfair procedures.”

In 2010, a UND student accused of sexual assault was expelled. Later, the accuser was arrested for filing a false police report. His mother – Sherry Warner Seefeld of Fargo – mounted a campaign to have her son reinstated – and that happened more than 18 months later. Seefeld says UND had attorneys there, but her son was not allowed to have his own counsel.

“I think universities are such big and powerful organizations, that they think you’re going to essentially tuck your tail between your legs and sneak away, and not going to fight,” said Seefeld. “There was no way I was going to do that, and let my son be branded with this kind of stigma. No parent should, and no person who’s innocent should let that happen to them.”

The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee.

Schools: University of North Dakota