I sent this letter at the beginning of January to Dean of Students, Bruce Pitman, about some of the things that happened to me this last year at the University of Idaho.
In October 2012, I was involved in an incident that resulted in a housing contract termination, disciplinary action and outside legal investigations.
I chose the University of Idaho because the faculty I met while touring campus made me feel welcome, and the environment seemed friendly. My initial impressions of both academia and administration were very high. After these events, I can no longer say that I am proud to be a Vandal. A handful of individuals with an inordinate amount of power have taken my school spirit and crushed it.
I question the procedure that the university used to deal with this incident. It was not timely, it did not seem to operate within the parameters set up by disciplinary codes, and it was not fair or just.
Allow me to address them one at a time:
- -The incident happened on October 19, 2012.
- -I received an official charge letter — my first contact from the Dean’s Office — on December 24th, 9 weeks after the incident (and the day before Christmas).
- -For reasons that I am unsure of, I was not offered an agreed settlement until March 6th, 2013, or 19 weeks after the incident. The terms offered to me were quite disagreeable.
- -A slightly more reasonable settlement was offered a few weeks later, and a slightly more improved “reduced” settlement was given to me on April 29th, 2013.
- -A UJC hearing was finally scheduled during dead week; I was provided the very minimal notice required.
In regards to procedures:
I believe that this selection from the Student Code of Conduct is applicable:
Article X, Section 6
“The disciplinary hearing shall occur not less than five nor more than fifteen calendar days after the accused student has been notified in writing of all charges, including amended charges. Maximum time limits for scheduling of hearings may be extended at the discretion of the Dean of Students, or the dean’s designee, as long as the hearing will be prompt. The accused student and DOS may agree to a specific hearing date. The accused student may waive his or her right to a prompt hearing. The accused student may request the chairperson of the UJC to reschedule the hearings. [ed. 8-07]”
The actions that the university took against me were all but prompt. The Disciplinary Office may be considered the “dean’s designee”, but promptness is still applicable in that situation. I did send an email regarding the issue of promptness to the DoS, as did one of my advisors, but failed to receive any contact back or notification of what was going on.
When accusing someone of doing something relatively serious and attaching disciplinary action to it, one would hope that good solid evidence exists. In my case, all that existed was hearsay and speculation.
In the end, what I lacked was a way to prove that I didn’t do anything as described by the disciplinary office.
It was communicated to me that if the disciplinary officer could prove my guilt that they would push for a suspension or worse, and if they could not prove anything with certainty, they would instead have me write a paper and do community service. I’m sure you see the issue I take with this.
I took the agreed settlement offered to me for various reasons:
- -Erin Agidius intended to push for my suspension or expulsion if I proceeded with a UJC hearing. Whereas if I took the agreed settlement, I was guaranteed a lesser punishment.
- -It was explained to me by the student defender that the UJC almost always accepts the punishment suggested by the disciplinary officer and that very seldom does the UJC decide on a different action.
- -A UJC hearing does not require hard evidence. They had hearsay against me from the assistant director of housing, and my word would not stand next to that in front of faculty. Further, a lot of assumptions were made about the incidents which I was being charged of.
In short, and as the student defender worded it, taking the route of a UJC was almost a guaranteed suspension.
What I refused to do was to sign a statement of admission with a list of what the disciplinary office believes I did. The most reasonable thing that happened in this entire situation was that the wording of the settlement was slightly changed so that I was not forced to falsely confess.
Although I realize that the DoS does not control the UI Housing department, I would like to mention problems that happened on their end
- -About a week after the incident, I was called into the housing office for a meeting with Amanda Mollet, assistant director of housing. I was handed a housing contract termination notice. I find the reason for termination to not be applicable to my situation. I was callously reminded during the meeting that my contract could be “terminated for any reason or no reason”.
- -I was given three days to move. If it were not the quick actions, help, and resources of my friends, I would have had to drop out.
- I was not refunded for any part of my housing costs (room costs, deposit, or meal plan)
- -My meal plan was canceled by the assistant director as well. You do not have to be an on-campus resident to have a meal plan.
- -Most importantly, I was left homeless. Housing clearly had no care about this. Without refunds, I was not able to easily find housing elsewhere.
This was an unreasonable amount of stress to put any student through, regardless of the situation. It was difficult to keep on top of my class work. During my second semester after this incident, I had to reduce the load of courses I was taking. I didn’t feel safe. Walking onto campus every day was a stressful task.
I never in my wildest dreams imagined that my hobbies could cause me so much trouble or that they would get me to be considered a danger to others, especially in an academic environment. This was one of the most disheartening experience I have ever had.
Thank you for your time,
Dean Pitman’s response:
This situation has been under an extensive criminal investigation. I have been informed that the investigation has recently been completed.
Our actions were being conducted in cooperation with this investigation.
Dean of Students
This incident is an embarrassment to the university and the lack of administrative concern with harassing students and leaving them homeless is upsetting.
I expected better from this place.