Fighting for Due Process and Legal Equality on Campus
The right to a fair hearing is threatened on college campuses across the United States. Currently, many students have no choice but to face campus judicial proceedings on their own. This can be daunting, as many schools’ conduct policies and procedures are needlessly complex — and some may even be unconstitutional. Campus judiciaries are often unchecked, leaving administrators to make life-altering decisions without scrutiny. As FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff has written: “Due process exists not simply to protect the innocent, but also to accurately identify the guilty. Once too much subjectivity is allowed into the system, guilt or innocence determinations are unduly influenced by less rational factors, like whether or not the administrator in charge likes or dislikes the accused.”
FIRE has launched Student Defenders to help students start groups dedicated to defending student rights on campus. Student Defenders have the support and resources needed to navigate student conduct processes. Student Defenders will help educate fellow students on their rights and options, advocate for fair and clear policies and procedures, and advise and counsel students in the university judicial process. By accompanying students through the university judicial system, Student Defenders will act as watchdogs for due process violations and provide accountability for university administrators.
While these groups have no formal connection to FIRE and will vary in size and structure, they are united in their mission to promote legal equality and protect due process for their fellow students.
What does a Student Defenders group do?
- Educate fellow students about their rights and the disciplinary process at their institution
- Guide students through the disciplinary process and help them prepare their case
- Actively advocate in student hearings (institutionally permitting)
- Be a watchdog for due process and legal equity on campus.
- Provide accountability for university administrators
- Advocate for fair and just procedures on campus
FIRE is pleased to provide students with the resources they need to start a Student Defenders group of their own, including a comprehensive start-up guide, sample constitution, tips for recruiting and training members, logos, templates for flyers, and much more. We are also here to offer tips and to answer any questions you may have at any point in the process. For additional information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in starting a Student Defenders group? We have just the thing to help. The Student Defenders Guide is a comprehensive manual to help you through the process of starting and running a Student Defenders group on your campus. The Guide contains advice on everything from applying for funding from your student government to recruiting and training new members. Below are some of the many topics covered in the guide.
- How to write a constitution for your Student Defenders group
- How to advertise your group and its services
- Tips on how to train new members and maintain a high standard of professionalism
- How to develop a good relationship with your college’s administration
- Tips for preparing and presenting cases
- How to advocate for active representatives (if your school does not yet grant representatives the right to speak)
- How to navigate FERPA and other confidentiality concerns
Remember, FIRE is here to provide guidance and resources. We have a team of experts at your disposal who can help decode and demystify your school’s policies, help you talk to administrators, and offer advice on tricky due process questions. Additionally, we can send more extensive guides, literature, speakers, and swag. Just let us know how we can help.