Monday, October 27, 2008

Pro-Life Displays Smashed on Campuses

According to FIRE, dozens of campuses have allowed, encouraged, and refused to apologize when students, staff and professors have smashed or removed perfectly legal pro-life displays. In a recent case, Cornell relented and the police returned pro-life signs. Read


Missouri State:

Yet another example of the barbarians -- Vandals -- within the academic gates.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Will Reilly: Meet the Grand Inquisitor

[MODERATOR: In The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky includes a famous scene, “The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor.” The Inquisitor imprisons Jesus for allegedly interfering with the mission of the Church. Jesus's arrival is disturbing the church’s mission. By interviewing both sides of the antiabortion protest Will Reilly reminds us

a) why free speech is important (its mission is to encourage debate); and

b) why some people—today’s Inquisitors—would ban objectionable speech in the spirit (if not name) of that "French twerp Herbert Marcuse."

Read Reilly’s account and make up your own mind]

So, today, I went to an anti-abortion rally.

As those of you who can see already know, there is a huge pictorial display called "Abortion as Genocide" currently up on the SIU campus. Sponsored by the pro-Yahweh RSO Warriors for Life, the display features the usual gory pictures of aborted fetuses and weeping non-mamas. The stated purpose of this exhibit is comparing abortion to historical genocides like the Holocaust. For the past two days, a group of 60 to 80 counter-protesters has been camped across the street from the display - carrying signs featuring bloody coat-hangers and unflattering descriptions of men.

Viewing this whole event as a living example of "conflict under law," I took my law class to see it earlier today. We spoke to both pro-lifers and pro-choicers, in order to hear them defend their respective positions. Our group talked to "pro-choice escorts" walking women around the display, pro-life advocates who had bused down to see the thing, and a brace of preachers. We politely questioned both sides. Almost everyone we hit up was willing to explain why they felt as they did; both conservatives and liberals were actually pretty difficult to quiet down.

But, there was one major exception to this rule. The very first group of people we spoke to was a bunch of liberal counter-protesters, dressed in typical "I'm-at-a-rally" gear. Two of them wore yellow "choice escort" signs stapled to their shirts. One had a piece of tape over her mouth - probably to symbolize that she was (like so many people at a public riot) unable to express herself. Another guy had a huge pink sign taped to his chest, with SIU Chancellor Sam Goldman's home number written on it. Apparently, passerby were supposed to call the Chancellor and demand that the anti-choice photos be taken down.

My students and I asked these liberal counter-protesters a few questions, mostly about whether demanding the photos be removed was anti free speech. The head of the liberal counter-protesters (let's call him the "Inquisitor") chased down a couple of my undergraduates and demanded that they give him my name and title. When I went back to confront him about this, he told me that he had been "horribly offended" by the questions I and my students had been asking. He noted that there was "no place at college" for questions like mine - much less speech like pro-life signs. Inquisitor told me that he planned to call the Chancellor's office and file a formal complaint about my "abuse" of him and his pals, and huffed off.

I called the Chancellor, who tells me that his office doesn't take too many unsolicited complaints from street protesters, but am still annoyed by this. The behavior of the liberal counter-protesters is a classic example of what French twerp Herbert Marcuse called repressive tolerance. In a famous essay, Marcuse argued that liberals should be totally tolerant of left-wing behaviors, but should feel comfortable not tolerating conservatives because conservatives are evil. Thus, the counter-protester and his friends expected people to be okay with them standing in the middle of a public road screaming about abortion, but literally attempted to fire me for asking whether his position made sense. Ah, sweet reason.

An additional note of humor is provided here by the fact that this self-appointed Inquisitor is in no position to push for limits on free speech. According to a brief Google search for the name of the person yelling at me, he's a well-known far-Left blogger. His blog is publicly available on MySpace and Blog-Spot. Even taking Marcuse into account, the Inquisitor would be one of the first victims were we to do away with the First Amendment. As I support his free speech rights, I will refrain from the ol' law school urge to post links to the most humiliating portions of the blog (here). I suggest that he and his friends extend the same courtesy to others.

In the interests of free speech from all directions, I will note that the Chancellor's number is 618-453-2341. Feel free to call him and criticize protesters, criticize conservatives, or note how awesome I am.

Chancellor is Shocked! Shocked!

Apparently, top campus administrators jump when receiving complaints from feminists and pro-choice folk. In today's Daily Egyptian, the Chancellor explained that he was forced by the First Amendment and legal counsel to allow the graphic antiabortion display yesterday. But he agreed with the side that found it "disturbing." This is the same university that covered the picture of a woman's partially-exposed derriere because children might see it. Shades of John Ashcroft! (The former Attorney General famously draped cloth over the statuesque breast of Lady Justice).

In today's letter, Chancellor Goldman called for "civil discussion and debate, [so that ] reasonable people can weigh the pros and cons of the position taken by this or any organization and form their own opinions and conclusions" [about abortion].

Goldman didn't think the graphic display produced civil discussion and debate. The next submission (by Will Reilly) suggests that civil debate did result from the display. Read Reilly and make up your "own opinions and conclusions."

How to Comment

Readers have asked how to comment. It is easy:

1. Click on the numbered "Comments" link below a blog entry. If you are the first to comment, the "Comments" link will read "O Comments."

2. After clicking on the link -- type your comment in the "Leave Your Message Box."

3. Choose a Name (real or pseudonymous) or anonymous. The default is Google Blogger so you will need to change to Name or Anonymous if you are not a Google blogger or wish to remain anonymous.

4. Click "post comment"

New Name: FreeU

Dear readers,

FreeSIU has been picked up by two sites with a national audience. Because contributors address general issues in higher education, I am renaming the site "FreeU." The web site remains the same (

New description:

"FreeU covers topics and current events in higher education, with emphasis upon Southern Illinois University (SIU). This site is open to a wide range of viewpoints. Just be respectful. Think of it as a big free speech zone."

As always, I'm open to submissions and encourage you to circulate or comment upon posts that interest you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Abortion and Free Speech

Last month, someone trampled anti-abortion crosses on Newman Center grounds. (The Newman Center is the Catholic meeting place on campus, just as Hillel is a meeting place for Jewish students.)

A young zoology major, Elizabeth Hensley, constructed the subdued anti-abortion display. Hensley protested the destruction in the Daily Egyptian and was vigorously attacked online by the "free speech for me, but not for thee" crowd. You see, Hensley provoked "understandable outrage," etc. Their reaction was reminiscent of that phrase "blaming the victim."

Others came to Hensley's defense--online--but the silence from the administration was deafening compared to its overreactions in other instances. Examples: the Marc Torney case (where the entire campus came justifiably to Torney's free speech defense). Or the single "anti-feminist" email that resulted in immediate action by the chancellor's office (suspension of email, Judicial Affair charges, and more--read below). Then there was the rush to praise "diversity" when black suspects mugged a white person. A great teachable moment about law and order on campus -- and it became more gruel for prattling the mantra of diversity. Clearly, the campus pooh-bahs will defend some more vigorously than others.

One can imagine the reaction if some person violated Muslim or Jewish property on campus, much less a Black History display. We would hear that "Klan thinking" is just below the surface of our serene campus. Chancellor Goldman would take out a half-page advertisment in the Daily Egyptian (as he did last year when a student emailed a drunken rant about feminists to an off-campus web site editor). Student Judicial Affairs would go into action, and if the SIU Police located the culprit, the full force of the Student Conduct Code would come swiftly down upon him or her.
***Historical note: The last great flowering of the Ku Klux Klan in southern Illinois violently targeted Catholics and led to the destruction of a Catholic hospital in Herrin. Better dead than alive by Catholic hands was the thinking.***
Yesterday, there was a far more explicit anti-abortion display on campus. With SIU Police watching, there was no destruction of property. Later that night a debate followed between pro-choice and pro-life speakers. So, what began as an ugly trampling of free speech, ended in vigorous debate over an issue that isn't going away.

Tonight there is another campus debate dealing with pornography. Last week, we had a high-level debate on the merits of a state constitutional convention. Add the ACLU/Law School debate over the Student Conduct Code.

Kudos to the sponsors of these debates. Let them continue.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Little Red Schoolhouse: Teacher Education at SIU; Or, Why Bill Ayers Would Love this Place

"Capitalist hegemony," "white privilege," "teaching for social justice," "critical pedagogy," "liberation," "oppression studies," and classroom "resistance" (students who refuse to buy into all of the above).

What do these buzz words have to do with Bill Ayers? He is part of the movement for "revolutionary" education--and his work, and that of like-minded activists, is assigned in required "School and Society" courses at SIU and other colleges.

I first encountered the unbalanced, far-Left reading some years ago. SIU required education majors to read the Mao and Castro-worshipping Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a "classic manifesto" that has sold nearly one million copies. (For a description of the pedagogy, click here). I was stunned at the time warp: surely, Education Schools are not offering warmed-over sixties radicalism as the only source on "School and Society?" There is nothing wrong with assigning works from a Marxist or "critical pedagogy" perspective but that was all that was offered in a class that future teachers must take. When I searched other schools, I found much the same thing. Apparently, "queering" the curriculum, assaulting capitalism, and denouncing "color-blind racism" is de rigueur.

Flash forward to 2008. The name of Bill Ayers is in the air. Former member of Weather Underground and still committed to revolution--through the education schools. Read his blog:

The troubling thing about Bill Ayers isn't his connection with Barack Obama (I'll leave that up to readers) but the fact that his approach to education is the only thing taught in many "school and society" courses. Check the reading list at SIU and elsewhere. There may be exceptions but judging from and course assignments, "teaching for social justice" is rampant.

It got so bad that FIRE and NAS had to successfully fight accreditation requirements that future teachers have the right "dispositions" (see here and here). I suspect we haven't heard the last of this indoctrination requirement.

Balance, not bias, is the issue. We are all "biased" which is why the curriculum ought to include opposing viewpoints, particularly in courses required to enter a profession. The notion that the classroom is a play tool for revolutionaries, Left or Right, is pernicious and disrespectful of the individual dignity of students.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Professors with Pitchforks: Faculty "Hot" Over Harassment Code

Professors with pitchforks!

What a difference a month of education and agitation makes when the administration is trying, by all appearances, to rush through a sexual harassment code that is even worse than our old code. Update:

I attended the Faculty Senate meeting, where University Legal Counsel (Phyleccia Cole) presented her office's proposed sexual harassment code. Professor Mary Lamb (English) made a brief, sharp presentation assailing the code. Then the senators started to say how "atrocious" the code was and Lamb asked for a show of hands whether people were as "hot" as the speakers (herself included)--most hands went up (the administrators did not raise their hands. LOL). Lamb posted a questionnaire for professors and everyone else to make their feelings known.

The constituency heads were there and one said his constituency was "very strongly" against the code and they didn't realize how bad it was until now. The senator from the medical school cited the NAS Statement I ran in the Daily Egyptian and used it to criticize the code and propose common-sense guidelines.

Professors were a bit taken aback by the Powerpoint slide indicating that Legal Counsel would hand over documents to the accused IF A COURT ORDERED THEM TO DO SO. Otherwise, everything is secret. Look up "Star Chamber".

The feminist president of the Faculty Senate (Peggy Stockdale) pooh-poohed the "legal" and emphasized the "psychological" -- even a "sexist joke" was on the slippery slope to x, y, z, then sexual assualt. Lordie, bring us back to the 1950s when comic books were a gateway to drugs, deviancy, communism!! Shades of "Reefer Madness!" It starts with Seinfeld jokes and leads to the worst of all sexual crimes.

The president then went on to say that we had to make it "easy and unrisky" for victims to file complaints without having to reveal their identity or even the location of the "crime." The hazier the better.

In the end, President Stockdale had to stew as the senators challenged the assumptions of the code and the abuse of power. Many feared a real "chilling effect." After the show of hands, the Faculty Senate agreed to draft a resolution strongly opposing the code revisions, to be presented at the next meeting.

Professors with pitchforks!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"OMW": Christians on Campus: Bah, Humbug!

[MODERATOR'S NOTE: The following post by "Old Man Winter" (OMW) discusses the lack of religious tolerance on SIUC campus, particularly for those who profess Christianity in its many forms.

OMW asks for greater understanding from an academic establishment that is tone deaf to the meaning of religion. The regulators of religious freedom hide their ignorance behind a doctrinaire wall of church-state separation that violates the religious freedom clause of the First amendment. In social work, education, and law, students and staff are harassed for exercising their religious faith on campus. This is unconstitutional. But once again it has taken a major court victory to order SIU to "do the right thing": Christian Legal Society v. Southern Illinois University (2006). The following links show how FIRE and the Alliance Defense Fund (a religious freedom group) won this important precedent--a case now studied by SIU Law students! Click here, here and here. For a case involving the School of Work, see this Daily Egyptian editorial.

The root of this discrimination is ignorance of the law and the vital role religion plays in the public square. For more, see FIRE's guide to religious liberty: As always, if you feel your religious liberty is under assault, educate yourself and contact, FIRE, ADF, or the ACLU.]

"Old Man Winter" writes:

Anti-"Christian" rhetoric at SIU is little more than unawareness--a polite term--of its historical, theological and cultural complexity. In fact, there is not one "Christianity," but several. As Christians, we share the kergyma or proclamation that we somehow experience "God" in the historical figure of Jesus from Nazareth. After that proclamation, disagreements reign with far more frequency than agreements.

For academics to be unaware--for whatever reason--of these disagreements and the controversies behind them is simply inexcusable. Such unawareness, however, provides a vehicle through which ideological and political agendas that have nothing to do with intellectual discussion or academic freedom can occur. In short, pronouncing that "the Christians" will raise complaints about GLBT issues and that we intellectuals need to anticipate ignorant rantings about "sinful behavior" is simply wrong at best and offensive at worst.

Ignorance is not necessarily harmful in itself. When it is used, however, to label, categorize, shun and even attack colleagues, students and other human beings, such ignorance needs to be renounced as firmly as possible. To those who are so busy defending "rights," perhaps it may be necessary to ask them to become morally consistent. We who are people of Judeo-Christian faith have the right to practice our faith, explore our own issues, meet in peaceable assembly with our fellows and even debate the merits of our own assertions without fear of retribution, castigation, exclusion or stereotype. We as people of faith have something to offer the intellectual dialogue that can take place on a college campus and, in my experience, did until about 30 years ago.

We also have the right to raise questions about the claims of those who express different opinions in the spirit of intellectual give and take without having our inquiries narrowly labeled as "religion and (sexual) morality." For there to be any question of our intellectual part of the "search for truth wherever it may lead" only heightens the problems facing SIUC and, I presume, many campuses across the country.

Surely with the brain power present at a research institution like ours, we can do better. In fact, if we really believe what we say about justice, equality and academic integrity, we must.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Police State? "Call off the Goons"

Below you will find Professor Mary Lamb's letter to the editor about another on-campus arrest of Cal Meyers for being . . . on campus.

[BACKGROUND: Cal Meyers was ousted for alleged violations of the sexual harassment code, accusations which Meyers never got to see until after he filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit, according to his attorney Rebecca Whittington. Even then, the charges were undated and he claims he still does not know his accuser. See

Certainly, SIU isn't a police state but the police are busy with Professor Meyers, per the orders of "someone above." If Meyers is a "clear and present danger" to the campus community, why haven't workaday Salukis seen a poster warning that he poses a risk? Something along the lines of Public Enemy Number One? A report reading "The suspect is 81, bearing loose dentures and must be escorted off campus IMMEDIATELY. Persons with information shall contact 1-800-BUST-DOC."

I've seen Professor Meyers and chatted with him while he ate lunch in the Student Center, should I report him to the police? I can't imagine they enjoy carrying out this duty. But what is my/our duty? Am I an unwitting accomplice to his crime of being on campus? Inquiring minds need to know.

Daily Egyptian, 9 October 2008:

Call off the goons

Mary Lamb

Dear Editor:

This letter is directed to interim Chancellor Goldman. Last week Cal Meyers (the retired chemistry professor who was banned from campus for alleged sexual harassment charges, much like the recently deceased John Simon) approached the law school to visit a colleague. He never saw him. Two security police escorted Meyers off campus instead. What a sight that must have been! Two burly guards, each taking an arm of this 81-year-old man, whose weight has dropped to 130 pounds, and who is obviously in poor health.

I am sure you would want such unfortunate events to cease. Who would want to assume moral responsibility for the bad effects on the health of an 81-year-old man? Is this the way you, or anyone at SIUC, believes we should treat an old man, who has given many years of his life (and $2.5 million) to SIUC? And, while we are at it, if you continue to ban him from his chemistry lab, funded by his own $2.5 million, at least give him a substantial portion of his money back! As Chancellor, you are ultimately responsible for what happens on campus. So call off the goons!

Mary Lamb
Professor in the English Department

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Know your Rights": Davis v. Monroe (1999)

In the coming weeks, I will have experts weigh in on a "Know Your Rights" series dealing with student, faculty, and staff issues. Here I simply provide case information for readers.

The application of many civil rights laws ends up contested in court. On the issue of sexual harassment, the U.S. Supreme Court set down a "severe, persistent, or pervasive" standard for determining when behavior rose to the level of violating the law. This standard is missing from SIU's code but is present in most other sexual harassment codes. This doctrine, as expressed in Davis v. Monroe (1999) would go a long way to guide people's actions and reactions to "offensive" speech or behavior.

NOTE: For those who can't bear reading long-winded court opinions, U.S. Supreme Court cases come with a syllabus (brief summary). Read it short or long.

On student conduct codes, see the previously cited opinion of Justice Harry Blackmun.

Monday, October 6, 2008

VICTORY! Political Expression IS Legal on Campus

Imagine my relief.

If you are scratching your head about this one, you don't know either

a) Illinois politics and the level of arrogance in office; or
b) academic administration and the level of incompetence. . . .

but there is a happy ending and precedent for university presidents to demonstrate some common sense and independence. Read on:

1. The state requires all employees to pass an ethics exam to keep future governors and their friends ethical and out of prison. Oops. Let me rewrite: The state requires all employees to pass an ethics exam so THEY remain ethical (governors will still be convicted of crime in grand Illinois tradition).

2. The ethics law--passed after Governor George Ryan went to prison--forbids partisan political activity on state property. The exam tests whether you know promising a contract to your neighbors, the Sopranos, is illegal. Also, you must not show political favoritism by using your university phone to fund raise for Mike Rezko or his friend Barack Obama (not being partisan here, just keeping an Illinois focus).

3. Faculty are really revved up about this election. Obama is their guy and they wear his button on their lapels (or t-shirts, if they got lost somewhere in the Sixties time zone).

4. University of Illinois Ethics Office issues newsletter reeducating employees about the ethics law and even extends it--if only hypothetically--to campaign buttons and bumper stickers! No word on whether a strong-felt wink reveals (illegal) support for Sarah Palin.

5. Inspector General Gilbert Jimenez, the same schmuck who busted employees for passing their ethics exam too quickly, backs this interpretation of the law. U of I students lead a "civil disobedience" rally for Obama (who else?) and it makes the Chicago Tribune.

5. FIRE, ACLU, and your intrepid moderator (as president of the Illinois Association of Scholars) blast the University of Illinois for being on the wrong side of common sense, the Constitution, and a lot of pissed-off professors (Jimenez even extended the ban on campaign buttons to students!).

HAPPY ENDING: University of Illinois president B. Joseph White issues a "simple message" that actually defends free speech and challenges the state to define its problematic ethics law. Yippee!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Model Harassment Code: The Winner is . . .

The civil liberties group FIRE rates colleges from "Green Alert" (good record) to "Red Alert" (bad record). Among the "Red Alert" schools, FIRE shames the "Worst Five" by profiling them in a full-page ad of the U.S. News College Rankings issue. Public shaming led one of these schools (Valdosta State) to change its obnoxious policies censoring speech on Facebook (!). Valdosta was taken off Red Alert in recognition of its new found appreciation of civil liberties.

SIU-Carbondale is a "Red Alert" school. Here is the description of "Red Alert" status:
"FIRE adds a college or university to its Red Alert list when an institution acts with severe and ongoing disregard for the fundamental rights of its students or faculty members. While abuses occur on many campuses, Red Alert campuses have policies and/or practices that pose a particularly dangerous threat to basic freedoms; they are the 'worst of the worst' when it comes to liberty on campus."
But SIU-C can change its ways and avoid becoming a U.S. News poster child for suppression of "fundamental rights." One of the ways is to emulate the policies and practices of "Green Alert" schools. After reading the sexual harassment codes of "Green Alert" schools, I award the "best model for SIU-C" prize to . . .

Bucks County Community College! For its policy on sexual harassment, click this link.

(Honorable Mention: University of Pennsylvania)

Under the "Hostile Environment" category--the area resulting in the worst abuses by colleges--Bucks clearly defines what it is and is not: It is a "pattern" of severe, persistent, or pervasive behavior. It is NOT " every act that might be offensive to an individual or a group." Under both categories of sexual harassment, the code offers clear examples.

By contrast, SIU-C's current and proposed code is

*Expansive to the point of absurdity. Moreover, there is no discussion of what behavior is NOT sexual harassment.

*SIU's code does not include the "severe, persistent, or pervasive" legal standard. That standard must be hammered into the code and follow-up training.

*SIU's proposed code bans consensual relationships--a great way to deter potential hires who happen to be single. Where do people meet others for dating and mating? The workplace, of course. I suppose we will be treated next to a pre-dating contract requirement of what a person may or may not do on dates that fall in a gray zone?

*SIU's proposed changes add "sexually-explicit music" and computer images to the code. (Legal Counsel apparently copied this language from the SIUE code). Grab your Nanny Filter, men and women, and make sure you don't join a Facebook or Myspace group that is "sexually-explicit!" If uncertain, check with the bluenoses over at the proposed Office for Compliance.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group, SIU Legal Counsel, and constituency groups ought to "buck up" and read the model code discussed above.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"LQC": Lipstick on a pig, Part 2

Alva, Oklahoma is the home of Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Located in a poor part of the state, the Normal School was founded in 1897 and became a state university in the 1950s. By 1999 the enrollment at Northwestern Oklahoma was stuck, actually declining. The town and the school were barely hanging on.

Sound familiar?

The town of Alva made a bold decision. They would raise sales taxes 1% and turn over much of the money to scholarships at the University. The supporters of the plan reasoned that with more people in town, more money would be spent locally, returning the city's investment. The town dedicated the rest of the sales tax increase to developing parks and recreational areas in the city.

Did it work? Well, during the 2003-2004 academic year, 49.6% more students were awarded bachelors degrees than in 1999. By all accounts the school is doing well. They have added special veterans programs, out of state tuition waivers, and they share athletic facilities with the local high school, cutting down on infrastructure costs. According to the school's president at the time, Dr. John Beran, “not only are we attracting more students, but they are staying and earning degrees. We’re no longer an institution where many students come and get the basics and then transfer. We are now truly fulfilling the mission of a four-year regional university.”

In the fall of 2007, in spite of wide spread community opposition, the City of Carbondale imposed a sales tax increase to support a football stadium, along with Saluki Way. President Glenn Poshard spoke passionately in favor of the proposal that would direct up to $1 million a year for 20 years to a stadium that is used a half dozen times or so.

This is why there is a crisis of leadership at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, or "Southern" as Victoria Valle, the 6 figure income bureaucrat named as the assistant vice Chancellor for Enrollment, prefers to call it. The administration at Northwestern Oklahoma, along with the city, came up with a truly innovative use of the sales tax money. And their first thought wasn't to put out an expensive full color brochure while nicknaming the college "NorWest".

What if SIUC had put all that money into scholarships? And why didn't the enrollment managers or the "outstanding faculty" that have led all the failed searches for failed chancellors fight for an idea like that?

Here's the news for those who may have not gotten the memo: All universities have great faculty, in that they care to choose from the literally hundreds of applications for tenure track positions. When SIUC has a bad academic department, and there are quite a few, it is because the departments have been hijacked by crazed academics - often in thrall to theory, or political correctness, or Marxist/Gramsci/Foucault/Derrida madness. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

And the students turn away in droves.

When a university burdens students with fees to build a football stadium that they won't see for years, converts local sales taxes to the same project, it is not fulfilling its mission.

And the students turn away in droves.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Harry Blackmun: Students on Trial, Part III: Lawyers NOT Needed

Rejecting the view of Cyril Robinson, the committee that rewrote the Student Conduct Code explained why lawyers are NOT required in university proceedings. For the full report, see

The committee cited Harry Blackmun, most famous for his Roe v. Wade opinion. In Esteban v. Central Missouri State College (415 F. 2d 1077), Blackmun wrote:
". . . school regulations are not to be measured by the standards which prevail for the criminal law and for criminal procedure; and that the courts should interfere only where there is a clear case of constitutional infringement."

Read, compare, and make up your own mind.

Cyril Robinson: Students on Trial, Part II: Legal Counsel Needed

MODERATOR: In the post "Students on Trial: Conduct Code Revisited," I asked Cyril Robinson to elaborate on the role lawyers and/or other legal counselors might play. Mr. Robinson kindly replied with the following:

[The Student Conduct Code reads:]
"3) . . . The responsibility for selecting an advisor is placed on the charged student. The advisor may be any individual except a principal or witness in the hearing. The advisor shall be limited to advising the student and shall not participate directly in the hearing except by permission of the hearing agent and then only when the hearing agent finds special circumstances such as a party’s inability or difficulty communicating;"

Jonathan—this is a response to your questions about my thoughts on the above provision of the Student Conduct Code stating that “the advisor shall be limited to advising the student and shall not participate directly in the hearing except by permission of the hearing agent.” I can only guess what harm the drafters were concerned with but that guess is that they were concerned that attorneys [who are not mentioned in the provision]would interfere in the proceedings by raising frequent and irrelevant objections and numerous technical legal points. If this was the fear it reveals an astonishing ignorance of legal reality. Few students could afford to pay attorneys. Several years ago, I heard that attorneys in this area charged $150 an hour and it is doubtless more now. Moreover, the vast number of cases considered under the Student Conduct Code (SCC) do not require and probably would not benefit from an attorney’s skills and the potential penalties are not severe enough for a student to ask for an attorney’s assistance.

But some cases do. I will recite the facts involving a case I handled that illustrate these problems. I was called on by the faculty members of the Chinese-American Friendship Association, a campus organization, to represent two married Chinese students who were engaged in marital dispute while living in Evergreen terrace. The facts were simple. During an argument, the husband reached for a necklace the wife wore, and after a struggle that involved no physical injury, the wife called the campus police, who arrested and charged both husband and wife. This act resulted in criminal charges in the Jackson County Criminal Court and charges under the SCC.

It so happened that Sheila Simon was the state’s attorney assigned to the case. I explained the facts to her and that there were no injuries. She agreed to dismiss the case against both.

Turning to the SCC case, I explained to my clients that because there were cross claims I could not represent both of them and ended up representing the husband. The wife did not choose to have an attorney. I asked that the case be dismissed but the hearing officer refused. We had a full trial in which witnesses testified and at the end,the hearing officer dismissed the charges against both parties.

As I indicated earlier, one of the most frustrating features of this proceeding was that there were then no copying facilities available, and documents could not be taken from the hearing room, and so it was necessary for me to hand copy all documents.

Returning to the question of the need for a political advisor: in this case, my clients were foreigners, spoke poor English and were unfamiliar with American court procedures and so at least in cases of foreign students, of which there are many on the SIUC campus, adequate legal counsel is necessary.

Unfortunately, a fairly large number of American students are ignorant of such procedure. I taught courses of criminal justice and criminal procedure for years to undergraduate students and I can testify that on entering these courses their knowledge of the fundamentals of the American legal system was minimal.

As far as I know, the University makes no effort to teach these fundamentals to all students unless they take these special courses. Therefore, one can suppose that the vast number of students accused of a violation of the SCC will have only the vaguest idea of how to mount a defense to a charge.

I think that if the university is serious about wanting to provide procedural due process to students, it should:

1) provide a sort of pre-trial hearing in which some legally trained person, perhaps a third-year law student, would review the charge against the student to determine if there are “special circumstances such as a party’s inability or difficulty communicating;” or where the case is of such complexity that the student needs legal assistance;

2) In such a case, a law student would be assigned to aid the student, with full ability to call and cross-examine witnesses and to argue the case in favor of the accused;

3) This assistant or another should also be allowed to continue the case on to appeal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Students on Trial: Conduct Code Revisited

In today's Daily Egyptian, attorney Cyril Robinson offers five substantive criticisms of the revised Student Conduct Code at SIU-Carbondale. Check it out by clicking this link.

From my experience with students and the conduct code, the first four criticisms are accurate: in this day and age, why can't Judicial Affairs allow copies of written complaints or tape recordings of a hearing? Listing a nominal charge is also fair and reasonable.

Mr. Robinson's last criticism puzzles me because it arises again and again without careful explanation as to what role a lawyer could play in these conduct proceedings. It reads:

"5) Students do not have the right to have an attorney or legally trained person of their choosing to represent them at the hearing. They may only have an adviser who whispers advice in their ears, which by definition cannot be part of the record. . . ."

I witnessed the Marc Torney hearing in which the anti-war protester, charged with unauthorized demonstrating, had lawyer Rich Whitney whisper advice in his ear.

Several questions (I have an open mind, I just don't know what a lawyer would do):

1. What role, besides "whispering in the ear," would a lawyer play?

2. If legal counsel's role is greatly expanded (again, how?), would or should that expanded role be limited to the more serious violations?

3. Where are the lawyers? A local lawyer or FIRE or the ACLU might take a high-profile case but southern Illinois lawyers don't have thriving practices that allow many of them to serve as "angel" counselors.

4. Would a system of student advisers and/or examiners augment whatever Robinson proposes? At other universities, students (often graduate students) with flawless social and academic records can volunteer to be trained and serve on hearing boards. (I know, I trained for this role at Ohio State University and a friend served on one of those hearing boards).

The chief problem with the Student Conduct Code seems to be the lack of a paper trail. If you find yourself in trouble, keep a record of everything. Contemporaneous notes are best: email events to yourself because that puts a time/date stamp that shows you actually wrote it at the time of an alleged incident. This is all common sense. If you can afford it, consult an attorney or seek the help of FIRE or the ACLU. Keep in mind that those groups tackle a limited range of cases but they might point you to a lawyer who could help.

All in all, be assertive. Meanwhile, I'll ask Mr. Robinson if he has time to answer my questions. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know.