ASU Taught Me the Lesson of Due Process

WATCHING ADAMS GUEST COMMENTARY – 10/26/15

I love Adams State University. I am a former adjunct instructor, and I received a graduate degree from ASU. It makes me proud to associate with ASU, the community of Alamosa, and the entire San Luis Valley. This love for my community, its university, and its leadership is what motivated me to write this editorial.

I was saddened to recently learn of ASU President McClure’s decision to ban a former adjunct instructor from campus; I understand that in extreme cases this may be warranted, but as a fellow administrator, I would take such drastic action ONLY after providing the accused of due process. ASU is a publicly funded major institution of the region, a hub of the entire community, and the banning from campus of an individual is similar to ostracizing someone from an extended family; this act truly warrants transparent due process. The thought of any campus’ executive threatening a person with arrest for trespassing, without providing due process, ESPECIALLY for something as “damaging” as exercising free speech, seems unethical, if not illegal, and it is definitely undignified and unprofessional.

I encountered a similar situation years ago. I was going through a divorce with another ASU employee. This employee went to ASU’s OEO and filed a complaint; this single, one-sided complaint resulted in me being called into the OEO and threatened with being banned from campus (I had falsely been accused of breaching a university policy). I was very surprised by the university’s actions, as I had a background in law and was in the process of filing a restraining order against my soon-to-be ex. Only upon demanding my allowance to present my defense (which proved the accusation false), did the legal representatives of ASU realize they had failed to provide any form of due process, and they were unprofessional and wrong in their initial action. The meeting ended with me being given a sincere apology (and a request not to make their lives a legal hell), and I reminded all involved that my intention would never be to harm ASU, its administration, its reputation; this would be harming myself. My intention was and continues to be to remind ASU’s administration something THEY TAUGHT ME- the lesson of due process. This lesson is what differentiated our democratic forefathers from their predecessors who were ruled by a king.

In primary and secondary schools, in the case of suspension, principals are expected to notify the accused (a student) of the violation, give the accused the opportunity to respond, and tell the accused of the consequences. In the case of the far more serious expulsion, the accused is to be given a formal hearing including a notice of charges, prior notice of hearing, right to legal counsel, a hearing before an impartial party, the right to compel supportive witnesses to attend the hearing, the right to confront adverse witnesses and evidence, the right to testify on their behalf, and the right to have a transcript of proceedings for use on appeal. This is the expectation our society has for a principal presiding over a CHILD accused of a wrong-doing. If this is a concept taught in a graduate leadership program of ASU’s, it should be expected that ASU’s executive lead by example; anything less is beneath the dignity of ASU and ultimately the entire San Luis Valley.