College Hearings Defy Due Process

Duncan Reid, College first-year

To the Editors:

Innocent until proven guilty.

It’s typically the first thing anyone learns in this country about our legal system. That you are presumed to be innocent until you are found guilty in a court of law. In every court in the nation from Nome, AL, to Key West, FL, it’s the law of the land.

Then why isn’t it in Oberlin?

First, a background. If you are found to be accused of a violation of the Oberlin Campus Student Code of Conduct, you will be brought before a panel of your peers, like you would be if you violated state or federal law. You are allowed to face your accuser and discuss the facts of the case, like you would be if you violated state or federal law. However once the deliberations happen, innocent until proven guilty becomes innocent until probably or maybe guilty.

Everywhere in the country, in order to be found guilty of a crime the accused has to be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In layman’s terms, if you’re on trial, there cannot be a sliver of a doubt that you committed that crime or violation. It is not enough that the accused probably committed the crime for them to be found guilty.

At Oberlin the standard is far less.

In an Oberlin judicial hearing the accused just has to be found guilty by a mere “preponderance of the evidence,” which is legal speak for 50.1 percent of the evidence pointing towards guilt. Which raises the question, why does Oberlin, typically a pinnacle of upper-level education in this country, divert from the national benchmark?

The truth is that no one seems to know.

The administration didn’t respond to my request for comment, and there is no justification for the rule available online. That needs to change.

When dealing with suspending or expelling a student the student should be afforded the rights that would be afforded to them in any other court of law.

Instead of waiting every other year to revise the Judicial Charter, the General Faculty and the Student Life Committee should act at their next meeting to protect the due process and civil rights of all students.

Voltaire said, “It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.”

Shouldn’t Obies have these rights too?

– Duncan Reid

College first-year