UA Affirms Due Process Right
Condemns Suspension of Housing Without Prior Investigation
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
The Undergraduate Association Senate approved a resolution last night condemning decisions to suspend student housing without due process.
The resolution was in response to debate about the disciplinary procedures leading to the removal of three students from Simmons Hall after an unregistered party. UA President Harel M. Williams ’04 will bring the resolution to Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict for further discussion.
The Senate rejected a subsequent resolution to further investigate the Simmons incident because of a need for further clarification regarding who would serve on such an investigating panel. President Charles M. Vest also spoke at the Senate meeting, and a resolution of appreciation for President Vest was passed by the Senate.
UA condemns lack of due process
The resolution by the Senate, as passed, states that “we condemn the decision to suspend students’ housing privileges without due process; and that we believe that it is poor policy in general to punish students first and investigate later.”
The original wording of the resolution had read “that we condemn the decision to suspend the students’ housing privileges at Simmons Hall as premature,” but this wording was amended after concerns from some senators that the details of the incident at Simmons were not precisely known.
The resolution, however, does include the statement that, “we feel due process was not granted to the students punished for their roles in the Oct. 9 Simmons Hall party, who were removed from their dormitory before an investigation had been conducted into the party or a disciplinary hearing held.”
The resolution was co-sponsored by Jessica H. Lowell ’07, a senator from East Campus, Andrew T. Lukmann ’07, a senator from Simmons Hall, and John R. Velasco ’05, a senator from the Interfraternity Council.
Controversy over Simmons party
The resolution was brought about by controversy over the handling of punishments following the Simmons Hall party.
The “major problem was the fact that they were punished before the discussion process had been allowed to work,” Lowell said.
“Due process wasn’t granted in this case” and students “shouldn’t be punished before they’ve had a chance to defend themselves,” she said.
Lukmann said that he had spoken with Benedict, who he says admits there may have been procedural violations.
Williams said that “clearly something was wrong here,” and the senators “have to come out strongly about how this was handled.”
Williams said that the president of Simmons had not been informed about the process, and that he and Senate Speaker Rose A. Grabowski ’05 were not notified about the decision in a timely manner.
Williams said the resolution will serve as an “official statement on behalf of student body” that “reinforces our efforts” and that “discussions have already begun with administration about process.”
The resolution was passed with 20 votes in support, six against, and four abstentions.
Simmons investigation rejected
A resolution to launch a UA investigation of the Simmons incident was struck down, largely due to questions about whether and how living groups and fraternities should be involved in the investigation, Grabowski said. In addition, questions arose about whether the investigation of the applicants would be relevant to all students, or simply those living in dormitories.
The resolution would have stated “that the President of the Undergraduate Association shall be able to convene a joint committee of representatives from the governments of the Undergraduate Association, DormCon, the Inter-Fraternity Council, Panhel, and the Living Group Council, to investigate the handling of the Oct. 9 party at Simmons Hall.” The text of the resolution continues “that this committee shall work with MIT administrators and other affected parties to devise procedures to better handle incidents such as the Simmons party in all living groups in the future.”
The resolution, sponsored by Lowell, was designed to “try to make it so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Lukmann said that he believes it “absolutely necessary... to really give our statement some sort of action” to go along with the resolution that passed regarding due process.
Jessica E. Karnis ’05, the senator representing the Living Group Council, said that the LGC is not interested in investigation, and that LGC should not be involved with the dormitories.
Christina C. Royce ’06, the senator representing Panhellenic, said that although she supported action being taken, the current resolution “didn’t seem the right method” for change.
The resolution was rejected with 10 opposing the resolution, five supporting, and seven abstentions.