Despite a letter drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) objecting to the UC Santa Cruz’s judicial process, the administration has opted not to amend the protocol. 35 students are currently facing a restitution charge of $944 to cover the damages to Kerr Hall.
The letter, addressed to Chancellor George Blumenthal and Academic Senate Chair Lori Kletzer, states that the university has not afforded students due process, and must amend aspects of the process to assure constitutionality of the student judicial process.
“The administration failed to provide any hearing on the restitution. Students were being fined without due process,” said Julia Harumi Mass, an ACLU staff attorney who drafted the letter. “We were objecting to that.”
The ACLU’s presence follows the administration’s issuing of “voluntary resolutions” that found multiple students responsible for 10 violations of the Student Code of Conduct (SCC).
Some of the 35 students sanctioned were given a warning — they are eligible for an appeal to an appellate officer.
Students given any sanction greater than a warning may appeal to the Student Judicial Board for a hearing.
UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal stated that the process is in fact affording the students due process.
“[Appealing provides] the right to confront the evidence against them, to bring in an attorney if they wish, and to present evidence in their defense,” Blumenthal said. “That is a hearing and I believe that it meets the requirements of due process.”
Blumenthal made one modification to the process prior to receiving the letter from the ACLU: students who received a warning may appeal to an appellate officer in person rather than in writing.
Blumenthal stated that the administration had no plans to change the process underway any further.
“As of right now we are not waiving the restitution,” Blumenthal said. “It is subject to the outcome of the appeals.”
The administration issued equally distributed fines to identifiable students to cover the damage to Kerr Hall. ACLU attorney Mass stated that this was an aspect of the judicial process to which the ACLU specifically objected.
“You can’t just charge a flat rate without proving that each student was responsible for actually causing damage,” Mass said. “The amount needs to be reasonably related to the conduct that the student partook in.”
The administration has stated that by being present, students were active participants in the action, and as such are responsible for damages done to the building.
“Students have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings and be aware of when they are participating in an event that violates the judicial code and violates the law,” Blumenthal said. “It is a collective responsibility. If you participate in something illegal, you often bear responsibility for some of the illegal acts whether you specifically created them or not.”
According to the ACLU, presence and responsibility are not synonymous. Mass went on to discuss specifically the student journalist who is also being held responsible for the restitution of $944.
“To hold him responsible for the damages, someone who has not participated in the decisions by the group — he shouldn’t be held responsible,” Mass said. “That is why a hearing is so important.”
The courses that both the ACLU and the administration will take are unclear. When asked what is next for the ACLU, Mass expressed uncertainty.
“It depends,” Mass said. “In this case, I’m still in touch with people [at UC Santa Cruz] and monitoring the situation.”
Regardless of the course that the Kerr Hall saga takes, Lori Kletzer, addressed in the ACLU’s letter, described an inevitable consequence of the ACLU’s involvement.
“In a very straightforward way, there will continue to be public attention to this issue,” Kletzer said. “It will stay visible.”