26 January 2010

UC Berkeley and the 14th Amendment

On January 13 the UC Berkeley Committee on Student Conduct (CSC) placed Angela Miller, a UCB Junior, on interim  suspension, banned her from Campus property, precluded her from speaking to anyone affiliated with UC Berkeley, and evicted her from Campus housing. Ms. Miller was accused of participating in the Dec. 11, 2009 demonstration outside the Chancellor’s University House during which windows were vandalized and a concrete planter was broken. Eight people were arrested, including Ms. Miller, but given the insufficient evidence the Alameda County DA decided not to file any charges.

Evidently unhappy with this outcome, Berkeley decided to bring Ms. Miller in front a CSC panel to respond to the charges. During these proceedings  Ms. Miller was denied her right to counsel, refused access to photographic evidence (that only showed carrying a torch), and not notified of the Administration's intention to bring witnesses (who then turned out to rely in hearsay). Addressing her character and political views instead, the panel decided that Ms. Miller was a danger to the campus community, and proceeded to suspend her.

A post by UC Berkeley law students at Uncivil Procedure makes it clear that the University's proceedings violated Ms. Miller's constitutional rights to due process (as set forth in the 14th Amendment), also noting that
California law is clear that the rules governing disciplinary hearings at public universities are subject to constitutional due process guarantees.
The Uncivil Procedure post is a well-written and interesting piece: it forcefully shreds to pieces the University's charges against Ms. Miller, documents the breach of her constitutional rights, and makes a reasonable case that the CSC panel's aim was "to chill and impede student activism [...] UCB’s warning to any who dare show a contrary opinion." Somebody should be giving these law students an A.

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