Campus Conduct Hearings Have Been Costly

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More than 11 months after a three-day demonstration rocked the UC system, the conduct hearings for UC Berkeley students charged with misconduct during those protests continue to move forward, amid rising financial and time-related costs to both the students involved in the process and the campus.

Since their beginning, the conduct proceedings have been clouded in contention with allegations by the students of procedural violations by the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards and disagreement on both sides regarding causes for delays. Both parties agree, however, that the drawn-out proceedings have been costly.

So far, faculty, staff and students have spent approximately 438 hours this semester on three ongoing student conduct hearings, numerous pre-hearing conferences and informal meetings for approximately 17 students charged with misconduct related to the protests last November, according to Susan Trageser, director of the center.

The hearings for those involved in protests last November alone have created financial costs of approximately $23,000 for the campus - around $16,569 in faculty and staff time and $6,462 in space rental, educational technology services like recording and sound amplification, as well as copying expenses, according to Trageser.

Hearings are paid for by the center, but with the center's small operating budget, expenses related to open hearings or others requiring additional support are covered through the Office of the Dean of Students and the Division of Student Affairs, Trageser said in an e-mail. Given budget cuts, the office continues to look for ways to reduce costs, she added.

"The Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards is always exploring ways to reduce costs," Trageser said in an e-mail.

While there may be costs to both sides, comparing student costs to the costs to the campus is not necessarily fair, according to Laura Zelko, a UC Berkeley junior charged with five violations of the code of student conduct for her involvement in the Nov. 18 occupation of the Architecture and Engineering building and the Nov. 20 Wheeler Hall occupation.

"I understand the administration has the ability to tally up the time they spent on these hearings, but for the (Office of Student Conduct) this is their job, whereas for me, it's really not my job," Zelko said.

According to Zelko, the last 11 months have been physically and emotionally taxing as she struggles to juggle her school work, her social life and her pending student conduct proceedings.

"It's been hard," she said. "I'm working on a lot of prerequisites for nursing school that are pretty difficult, so trying to budget my time between learning about microbiology and learning about the intricacies of the student code of conduct has been very difficult. It's like having at least another class or two."

While monetary costs do not have as much of an impact on students, the emotional toll and time spent dealing with hearings, instead of working or going to class, has had the greatest impact on students, said Daniela Urban, a UC Berkeley School of Law student and member of the Campus Rights Project who has been advising students.

"There are many ways that this could have been handled differently by the Office of Student Conduct that would have saved the campus and students a lot of time and money, and all that boils down to a respect for the students' interests and rights," Urban said.


Aaida Samad covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected]

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