Philosophy with Attitude

Procedural Error

On November 18, 1994, Jan and I attended the "Informal Meeting" that we had set up with Ms. Green at her request. She informed us that the meeting could go one of three ways: first, that we could all agree on the violation and set up an appropriate sanction at that time; second, that we could agree on the violation but request a sanction hearing ourselves; and third, that Ms. Green could request a sanction hearing.

She asked us to read the description of the incident as it had taken place; when we had done so, she asked us if we agreed with it. We said that we did, since the description was as the incident had occurred, and she indicated that we should check the second box on the "Summary of Informal Meeting" sheet, the one that begins, "I agree with the charge(s) listed, but do not agree with the sanctions listed..." She had crossed out the second phrase, since she told us that she would not attempt to sanction us there but, in the interests of fairness, had decided to forward the case to a hearing.

I would like to stress that at no time did Ms. Green point out that we were in fact agreeing with the violation that was listed on the form as "rights of others," but rather that we were agreeing to the description of the incident. Had we known that we were agreeing to the listed violation, we would have chosen the third box on the "Summary of Informal Meeting" sheet, which states that the defendant does not agree with either the charge or the sanction.

We did not feel at the time that we indeed violated the rights of others, but we did not realize that was what we had agreed to until we spoke to Linda in the Judicial Processes office. She asked why we had signed the sheet if we did not agree with the violation listed, at which point I told her that Ms. Green had not mentioned that we were agreeing to the violation itself, but rather with the incident description. Of course, by then more than 24 hours had passed, so we could not change our decision, and were bound to the hearing officer's sanction, whatever it would be.

We feel that we were pushed into making the decision that appears on the "Summary of Informal Meeting" sheet by Ms. Green, and that she did not explain fully enough the consequences of that decision -- as far as we knew, we were only agreeing to the description, and our hearing would be not just to determine a sanction, but also to determine the seriousness of the incident. In misleading us, Ms. Green in effect took away our right to a fair hearing, and I feel that we should have some redress in the matter.

Inappropriate Sanction

The sanction that we were given, probation for as long as Jan lives on campus (as it is stated in the "Sanction Hearing Minutes"), came as a complete shock to Jan and me. We had not expected Ms. Green to recommend a sanction in the first place, since she told us that she felt she could not do so in fairness, and when she suggested at the hearing that we deserved the above, we were quite surprised.

Jan and I have no prior record of misconduct in Marston House or elsewhere. We are both very much invovled in the social, academic, and governmental aspects of life in Marston, and we feel that the possibility of "negative impact" from our alleged violation on the Marston community is far outweighed by the positive impact that we have had.

Once again, we feel that we were severely misrepresented by Ms. Green in the sanction hearing. She indicated in several of her statements (unfortunately I do not have a copy of her sanction rationale, so this is from memory) that David and I had been spoken to formally about the matter twice before, and even went as far as to say that we had shown a willingness to violate any and all University policies. These statements are both misleading and untrue. The first time we were confronted about showering together, we were only told not to do it -- not why, or by whose orders. As rational, freethinking citizens, we did not feel that merely being told something without justification was an appropriate means of control -- if the United States ran that way, imagine the chaos that would result if each citizen had to do, without question, whatever he or she was told by the authorities.

We set up a meeting to speak with our R.A. about the confrontation. I must assume that this is the second time to which Ms. Green refered when she stated that we had been spoken to twice. If that is the case, then those incidents have been blown completely out of proportion, and once again we have been misrepresented.

Even when we went to speak with Ms. Green on the matter before the alleged violation, we were told there were no alternatives. It is stated in the Sanction Rationale that we did not exercise responsible choices in disagreeing with "community decisions," but we tried and were given no other options by Ms. Green. We went to her with the honest intention of attempting to resolve our differences, and throughout the whole meeting were told only that our behavior was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. There was no community decision on the appropriateness of couples showering together. I would like to stress that as well, because I do feel that if there had been, this entire incident would have proceeded far differently.

Even in comparison with sanctions imposed on other Marston residents, this sanction seems inappropriately harsh. I know people who have repeatedly broken the noise rule in the Housing Contract (which is the exact same category that our alleged violation is in) and not been sanctioned this way, as well as students who have violated federal law (i.e. possession of alcohol under the age of 21) and been given in essence only a slap on the wrist.

No one was harmed in any way, shape, or form by this alleged violation. Indeed, only the R.A. came in while we were in the bathroom together that night, so there was no chance that someone was hurt by our actions. We did not endanger the lives or even the comfort of the residents on this occasion; no University property was in jeopardy; there were no long-lasting effects to anyone in the community besides ourselves. We feel that the sanction of effectively endless probation is far too harsh in comparision to the incident itself, and request that the probation be lessened to a more appropriate length.

On to the Response

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