Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 10, 1997

Questionable justice

Due process of law is an important right granted to citizens of the United States by the Constitution. It ensures that trials are conducted systematically, with objectivity, in the presence of the public's watchful eye.

But that right is frequently violated.

Campus courts have moved beyond considering matters like plagiarism and vandalism to criminal matters such as sexual assault and hazing. There are rarely any of the trappings of criminal courts in such settings - little details like lawyers, press, and law enforcement.

Acquaintance rape has become one of the great causes of university justice, with an increasing number of rapes referred to campus courts. At first, when campus courts began hearing these matters, the verdict often sided with the alleged rapist. In the 1980s, due to pressure from women's groups, the courts gradually reversed this trend - a healthy notion, except that campus courts have thrown out innocent until proven guilty in an effort to protect the accuser.

At the University of Arizona, criminal complaints - including allegations of rape - can be referred to the Dean of Students as code of conduct violations. They move into Hearing Boards which are "closed" so as to "preserve the confidential nature of the disciplinary process, and to protect the privacy interests of the student who is charged with the violation." Members of the board are sworn to an oath of secrecy. Thus the entire proceeding - from the moment the board is convened, to when the actual disciplinary action takes place - is held from public eyes. This violates the spirit of the Sixth Amendment - "the accused shall enjoy the right to a- public trial."

To all intents and purposes, due process is circumvented in campus courts.

Moreover, when criminal complaints are hidden behind this mask of secrecy, the public is left uncertain as to whether or not due process is present. This sort of clandestine trial raises the protests of human rights groups when performed by tyrannies; why should it continue at a public university governed by the laws of a democratic republic?

Campus courts should not hear cases involving allegations of a violent crime. There is no guarantee of basic civil rights. It is a violation of the very language of the Arizona Board of Regents' Code of Conduct, which states that "membership in the university community [does not] amount to- a surrender of those individual rights accorded to all citizens of this country."

Regardless of public sentiment about such highly charged issues as rape, both accuser and accused must have their day in court.. To do otherwise is to reduce justice to an arbitrary set of decisions over which the law has little power.

Campus courts should stick to academic violations like plagiarism.


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