Monday, March 14, 2011

Another Open Letter to OSC

From the email:
Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards
2536 Channing Way, Building E
Berkeley, California 94720-2432

March 9, 2011

To Whom it May Concern:

This letter and the attached signed disposition confirm my acceptance of the informal resolution I have been offered in reference to campus actions I took part in two years ago as part of a mass, community-based protest against the financial mismanagement of this university that has detrimentally impacted its educational mission. I accept this resolution in recognition that the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards (CSCCS), despite its stated mission to aid this community in upholding the standards outlined in its Code of Student Conduct (Code), has acted in violation of the due process rights and procedural protections afforded me by this Code. The CSCCS's arbitrary and negligent application of the Code and the actions it has taken in violation of my rights under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) preclude me from proceeding to a hearing with any expectation of a just outcome.

Of the several due process and procedural violations the CSCCS has committed since it initiated disciplinary actions against me over a year ago, the following incidents are the most recent:
  1. CSCCS Student Conduct Specialist Jeff Woods refused to honor the timeline outlined in the attached Administrative Disposition which explicitly affords me three business days in which to consider, sign and return the disposition, a significant decision that impacts my academic record and student standing. Permitting me just two business days, Woods justified the shortened timeline with the justification that I had "had time to consider it" and that the offer was similar to earlier iterations. Regardless of the material content of this or any other disposition I've been offered, Woods effectively denied me the procedural protection outlined in the very document I was being asked to consider signing.
  2. In September 2010, I participated in a lengthy pre-hearing conference during which the Hearing Chair, Paul Vojta, made several rulings on procedural issues that would greatly inform my preparations for my hearing, including which version of the Code would govern the hearing and the role my legal counsel would be permitted during the hearing. As the conference was not concluded before I had to leave to attend class, we adjourned with the agreement that the second half of my conference would take place at a later date. Instead, in November, the CSCCS held a second, complete conference with its new Hearing Chair, Lynn Huntsinger, during which she made several rulings that directly contradicted the rulings from my first conference, without ever having informed me that those first rulings would be subject to amendment by a second Chair. Because I had relied on the rulings made by Chair Vojta in preparing my defense, Chair Huntsinger's arbitrary amendments -- some clearly less favorable to my position than were Chair Vojta's -- were detrimental to me.
As I have waited for the timely resolution to this matter that the Code provides for but the CSCCS has not delivered, I have seen indisputable evidence -- through the incidents I've cited and numerous other lapses and inconsistencies on the part of the CSCCS -- that the CSCCS is not prepared to uphold its part of the Code regulating this campus community.

If the CSCCS's mission is indeed to serve an educational purpose in encouraging this community to "hold each other responsible for living up to the standards outlined in the Code," consider this letter aligned with this purpose in holding CSCCS responsible for failing to live up to the standards outlined in the Code.

If the CSCCS's student conduct procedures are indeed governed by the value of "Responsibility," demanding "accountab[ility] for our own behavior and acting in accordance with community standards, including intervening when there is a concern," consider this letter an intervention motivated by great concern that the CSCCS has ceased to fulfill its stated function for this campus community.

And most importantly, if the CSCCS truly claims to uphold U.C. Berkeley's "Principles of Community," wherein "we believe that active participation and leadership in addressing the most pressing issues facing our local and global communities are central to our educational mission," I urge this office to consider the hypocrisy inherent in taking disciplinary, silencing, punitive actions against students who uphold this community principle by actively participating and taking tremendous leadership roles in addressing the most pressing issues facing this campus community and the state- and nation-wide public education system.

These students are standing with their local and global community of activists in demanding greater accountability from their public institutions and their governments. This letter serves as one among many voices demanding that the CSCCS recognize its failure to uphold the educational mission and community principles it claims to value, and its attending incapacity to justly determine and regulate standards for student conduct. The greatest educational benefit to my lengthy subjection to the CSCCS's disciplinary process has been the recognition that actions to challenge its assumptions and procedures are more urgent than ever.



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