The enemy of truth
When an Arizona Daily Wildcat reporter tried to enter Thursday's University Hearing Board on the future of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, he received a standard rebuff from campus crime czar and Assistant Dean of Students Veda Hunn.
Of course, the reporter couldn't be there. According to the UA's Student Disciplinary Handbook, the meeting must remain closed "to protect the privacy interests of the student who is charged with the violation," as well as witnesses to the crime.
This misguided rule makes student court a star chamber. Nobody knows what is going on inside.
The weird thing in this particular situation is this: ZBT, as an organization, stood accused of violating its alcohol-violation-related probation. There was no single student's privacy at stake. There are no academic records being explored. There is no possibility of violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy act that the UA flaunts for the right price.
Certainly chapter president Brian Landun didn't feel his privacy was integral to the proceedings before the hearing happened. He told an Arizona Daily Wildcat reporter he'd be more than willing to talk about what went on in the closed meeting.
After the hearing, however, Landun was reticent.
"We're bound under contract to keep confidentiality," Landun said.
The board found ZBT had, in fact, violated its probation, and disciplinary action is pending.
According to the disciplinary handbook, what goes on in a hearing board meeting amounts to a trial. University administrators submitted testimony and evidence just like a county prosecutor. Other students, faculty and staff decide the student's fate.
This closed, kangaroo-court atmosphere presents such extraordinary opportunities for abuse that one wonders how justice could ever be carried out, especially for serious campus crimes like rape and hazing. The Dean of Students Office's repeated assertion that the system works because it says so rings as hollow as a gin-swilling preacher's quotation of chapter and verse. There is no proof.
Our university administration could be working with students to find new ways to ensure that discipline is meted out fairly. We could be working together to open hearings that should be open. Instead, we continue to hear the same old lock-step arguments. Again, like the year of result-free conversation the Dean of Students Office calls progress on securing campus events from gunfire, we sit and wait for the hearing system to fail the students in a way that might actually provoke some evolution of the current system.