Date: Fri 24 Feb 04:20:30
Subject: A Response to Sam Sadler
Dear Sam Sadler:
Heartfelt indeed, but accurate, no. It baffles us as to why you state: ‘Our judicial system contains multiple checks and safeguards to ensure its fairness.’
Realize that, as a judicial system that conveniently neglects to afford an accused student the right to counsel - instead allowing one only to the accuser – we find your administrative logic to be misleading, baseless, and fallacious. Any student who has been forced to endure your three-ring political circus of a judicial hearing will contend the same. The system’s standard for burden of proof – albeit one that has created a situation where a defendant can not realistically be there to defend himself because of a pending criminal hearing and therefore expels him in absentia and denies him full access to the statements against him - shows utter disregard for a staple of American justice, that is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ God forbid you would have to sit through one of your own creations.
Neither you, sir, nor the College are above the law. This is a public institution that is a part of the state of Virginia. Hence, we as students expect to be treated with the full protection of the law when accused of misdeeds. Indeed, the Student Handbook states, ‘[s]tudents…shall enjoy all rights, privileges, and immunities guaranteed to every citizen of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia.’ You breach this contract in ill faith and sooner or later, must be held accountable.
We, as the College community, expect high standards of student conduct. The College has a right to make stricter rules than those provided by the law. However, the College clearly confuses standards of conduct and means of enforcing these standards when talking about the judicial system. It doesn’t have a right to trample on students’ right to a fair hearing when they are accused of breaking those higher standards. Holding students to higher standards does not mean that the College can try violations of such a code by dishonest or unfair means; an offense of which we strongly believe the College is guilty.
Mr. Sadler, you make our case for us when you yourself point out the disparities between the College’s system and the courts. The ‘clear and convincing’ standard is not an excuse to trample over students’ fundamental civil liberties. We must be encouraged to assume a student is innocent until proven guilty: Recall the premature e-mail you sent us naming Mr. Decker. Now that civil suit is where it belongs: Out of your jurisdiction and two lives are about to be ruined because of your ‘justice’ system.
You erroneously assume that the College possesses a higher truth. In Mr. Decker’s case, the courts and other evidence that is increasingly becoming available, clearly reveal this to be wrong. The College’s judgment is not infallible, nor can it come close to that of the courts, since the W&M system has neither the protections for student rights nor the respect for them. Nor is Decker’s case an anomaly. In the days ahead, The Remnant will continue to keep students informed, and yes, at the expense of your house-of-cards judicial system. As more wrongfully punished and accused students break their silence, we plan on exhibiting the consistent and reckless disregard of the judicial system for students’ rights. You, Mr. Sadler, have privy to such information and if FERPA restricts you from sharing the truth, freedom of press will set the records straight. We will give voice to the students.
The College’s judicial system is a serious matter that has deep effects on us all, particularly accused students. Decisions of the panel can ultimately have far-reaching holds on students’ lives. A judicial conviction, even for trite matters, can harm a student’s chances of getting into graduate schools. A judicial conviction for a more serious violation follows a student around for the rest of his or her life. As such, the College must be held to an even higher standard of accountability, ensuring that all decisions are just and fair decisions.
Despite some administrators arrogantly giving students the ‘trust us’ line, historical facts speak to the judicial system having been anything but ‘just’ and ‘fair.’ Administrators’ vague assurances claim this kangaroo court protects our rights, that the system has everyone’s best interests in mind, that student input has been taken into consideration year after year.
Perhaps these statements accurately reflect the two-dozen or so administrative student-sweethearts at any given time. Such vague assurances are common from an old-boy bureacratic system that revolves around secrecy and no actual accountability- some, to be fair, not due to the College’s doing, but to FERPA. Even so, this does not excuse the College from having to own up to the system that it runs behind closed doors. Now, the system will be exposed from the shadowy den of operations. What is needed is a higher level of transparency, that is if we are serious about protecting student rights.
The Remnant welcomes Mr. Sadler to defend the judicial system in a public forum. We have scheduled such a forum for March 20. Mr. Sadler, if you think this system is so fair, please come out from the cloak of school-wide emails you hide behind. Defend your position. We also embrace the opportunity to engage every administrator and student involved in the judicial process to do likewise. The students need answers to these questions, Mr. Sadler, and the College needs to answer to what it has done.
The Remnant seeks only to scrutinize the facts, whether or not the administration wants to deal with the truth. We do not recklessly criticize without seeking- and offering- change for the better. Baseless accusations are the reason William and Mary is now a lesser institution of higher education, and neither great, nor public. We have posted our plan for positive reform on our website, www.wmremnant.com, and we will stay dedicated to keeping students fully informed on these important matters.