Written by: David Lacy
On Aug. 23 a statewide bill in North Carolina was passed allowing students in student organizations the right to an attorney if they were brought before a disciplinary hearing.
This bill is the first of its kind and does not include academic dishonesty (meaning that if you cheat, you’re on your own). “Students across America are regularly tried in campus courts for serious offenses (such as) theft, harassment and even rape,” Robert Shibley, senior vice president for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), said. “Being labeled a felon and kicked out by your college carries serious, life-altering consequences. Because the stakes are so high, students should have the benefit of an attorney to ensure the hearing is conducted fairly and by the rules.”
I tend to agree with Mr. Shibley. If a student is going to be on trial and could possibly be kicked out of school, they should be able to have someone defend them. Whether it’s to reduce the punishment for the action or to be proven innocent, I like the idea that schools will not be able to make examples of students just because they made a mistake. Now this only applies to public universities; if you go to a private university you give up some rights in order to get an education there.
So where does this leave the rest of the universities around the US? If this continues to be a trend among states will we see it changed to also allow students who are being charged with academic dishonesty to have someone defend them? I think it should. I feel like most of the cases dealing with cheating are open and shut, but is this always the case? Are the students that are being punished for academic dishonesty all guilty? I don’t know. All I am trying to say is why should this law only cover certain areas and not others?
If you were in a situation that could potentially get you kicked out of college would you not want someone to defend you? I know that if I made a mistake or was accused of something I did not do I would want the opportunity to have a trial. No one wants to have a bad label going out into the workforce, and it seems that being brought before a disciplinary hearing to face judgment without some help is just wrong. So do we accept this new trend of allowing attorneys to defend us if we need it or do we leave our fate up to the school alone? Only time will tell.