Notre Dame degrades already scant student disciplinary protections in the name of COVID-19

Notre Dame degrades already scant student disciplinary protections in the name of COVID-19

2021-02-22 20:23:45

For a Midwestern like me, the University of Notre Dame is an institution you should respect whether you love or hate it. You couldn't grow up as a teenager in Toledo, Ohio without knowing at least a little about gridiron legends like Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz (the latter of whom, I should note, has taken a strong stand to support freedom of speech on campus

Unfortunately, when it comes to honestly shaking up its own students when charged with campus crimes, Notre Dame has really been a basement dweller lately. It received an F grade in FIRE & # 39; s Spotlight on Due Process report for 2019-2020, where the procedures for non-sexual misconduct received only one of 20 possible points. This means that Notre Dame policy did not guarantee students any meaningful version of basic protections, such as the presumption of innocence, the right to impartial fact-finders, and the right to present all relevant evidence to those fact-finders. You'd think it would be madness to leave that out if you want fair treatment, and you're right.

You might also think it can't get much worse. Well, Notre Dame is here to prove you wrong. The only meaningful protection Notre Dame even has partially provided students had the right to appeal, with FIRE awarding Notre Dame one of two possible points. But in his January 25, COVID-19 addendum According to the Guide to Student Life, Notre Dame Domers has even taken that away.

What can you not object to? Well, first of all, you can't appeal whether the university can apply this new process to you, unlike the pre-existing code that is already awful: “The determination by (Notre Dame & # 39; s Office of Community Standards) about which process is final. , and cannot be invoked. "So whatever minimum rights you thought you had, you will be right out the window, and you don't have to complain.

The policy then identifies two new "consequences" for violating COVID policies: COVID probation and COVID dismissal. If you miss a mandatory COVID test, you'll get a warning first, then probation, then dismissal – and "no appeal is available except for students assigned COVID dismissal from college."

“It's hard to find a legitimate public health reason to ban appeals

As FIRE previously recognized In a statement, one can see the need to take quick action when it comes to people who may be causing public health problems during a pandemic. Of course, that act doesn't necessarily have to be a punishment, and it usually isn't. (Even Notre Dame gives you one caveat.) But it's hard to find a legitimate public health reason to ban professionsIf Notre Dame can rely on students not deliberately coughing on people after receiving a warning or while the original process, however short it may be, is underway – and unless they literally lock students in a room while this is on going on, she To do trust that they don't – it's hard to imagine why they couldn't trust that they wouldn't as long as the appeal continues, given that they stay on campus anyway. (Remember, those who are actually kicked off campus with a COVID dismissal do get appeals.)

Further, in the case of meritorious appeals, if Notre Dame is found to have made a mistake about what happened or who is responsible, that information is factually is important both for the affected student and for public health reasons. It is, of course, important for the disciplined student as he / she is wrongly denied the opportunity to attend education that semester. But it is also important to the college community if it turns out that someone else may be exhibiting uncorrected behavior that puts others at risk.

Colleges and universities have made many changes this year because of COVID-19, and it is difficult to overestimate the degree of disruption the pandemic has caused to the experience of both students and teachers with higher education. While this has undoubtedly been a challenge for college administrators like Notre Dame, they nonetheless have a responsibility to think about the implications of the changes they are making and not treat a pandemic as an excuse to cut back, students to treat it unfairly or put public health at risk unnecessarily. Notre Dame policy does all three of these things. It needs to be replaced with something better.

The Notre Dame post downgrades the already scarce disciplinary protection of students in the name of COVID-19 first appeared on FIRE.


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