Credit The Legislature, Not UND, For Protecting Fraternity Students

“UND deserves great credit for choosing not to launch its own investigation of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity,” writes the Grand Forks Herald editorial board today. “In making that choice, the university accepted conclusions made by the local and university police, made a judgment for a fraternity over a reported member of an historically oppressed minority group and risked the wrath of the federal government.”

But does UND deserve the credit? After all, UND President Robert Kelley was quick to jump to conclusions when the incident first made news. “At first, UND overreacted,” admits the Herald.

We can be glad that UND ultimately did not choose to subject the Lambda Chi members to a kangaroo court tribunal, but did they really learn their lesson?

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…the credit should go to lawmakers for protecting the Lambda Chi students from their administrators, not to administrators from staying their hand only after students were given legal protections.[/mks_pullquote]

I don’t think UND learned their lesson. I think reforms passed by the Legislature earlier this year had an impact.

SB2150, introduced by state Senator Ray Holmberg of Grand Forks, passed both chambers of the Legislature earlier this year with only one dissenting vote. It went into law earlier this summer. What it does is require that universities extend to students certain due process rights in campus proceedings against them.

The North Dakota University System lobbied long and hard against the legislation. At one point Christopher Wilson, then legal counsel for the NDUS, actually told lawmakers that if students were given due process rights in campus proceedings – things like access to legal counsel – they might be denied the “educational” aspects of the proceedings against them.

Because getting railroaded by overzealous campus administrators is just part of the higher education experience, I guess.

All but one of the lawmakers in Bismarck (the lone exception was Senator David Hogue, a Republican from Minot) opted to vote for the bill rather than give credence to the absurd objections from the university system. And now, just months after that legislation became law, a group of falsely accused fraternity students have been spared from the incompetent and thoroughly biased tribunal process.

I asked Holmberg about his legislation and whether it may have helped protect the Lambda Chi brothers from the UND administration. “I think one could argue that, yes,” he told me. “Unfortunately, in our politically correct world campuses, and UND is one of them, have gone to the old Red Queen’s approach to punishment. Her quote, ‘Sentence first, verdict afterwards.’”

Again, despite the initial overreaction from UND administration and the university system’s fierce lobbying effort against due process rights for students.

Given that context, the credit should go to lawmakers for protecting the Lambda Chi students from their administrators, not to administrators from staying their hand only after students were given legal protections.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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