State Lawmaker: Student Due Process Bill Likely Protected Fraternity From Overzealous Administration

Elsewhere on SAB today University of North Dakota student Joe Price, who is also the current president of that school’s chapter of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, writes about what he and his fraternity brothers experienced when they were falsely accused of a “hate crime” by a homosexual man.

His descriptions are harrowing. “Local media jumped on the story. Despite there being very little information available, they continued running segments and publishing articles about the incident,” he writes. “At best, these pieces presented an account of the incident that was slanted; at worst, they were outright defamatory.”

“As could be expected, the incident had a significant impact on the morale of our members,” he continues. “Many avoided wearing the fraternity’s letters in public, fearing the judgement they would face from their instructors, peers, and other members of the community.”

Those experiences are downright frightening to consider, and unfortunately the administration at UND chose to fan the flames of the accusations. But things could have been worse were it not for a law passed by lawmakers earlier this year.

SB2150, introduced by Senator Ray Holmberg of Grand Forks, passed both chambers of the Legislature 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.

I spoke with Holmberg about the incident involving Lambda Chi Alpha, and he told me he felt his legislation made a difference. I wrote about it at Watchdog today:

I asked state Sen. Ray Holmberg, a Republican from Grand Forks who was the primary sponsor of the due process legislation, if he believed his legislation kept UND from acting against the fraternity and its members before law enforcement completed its investigation.

“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.’”

That’s the truth.

We can’t fall prey to the fallacy of the predetermined outcome. We do not know how the folks at UND would have handled the incident at the Lambda Chi fraternity had Holmberg’s law not been in place. But given UND’s ill-advised response to the incident, and the fact that the North Dakota University System lobbied long and hard against Holmberg’s legislation, we can make an informed guess.

Let’s be happy that our university students and student organizations have some protections from overzealous administrators now, no thanks to university system officials.

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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