Student Conduct Hearing Prolonged

Photo: Julian Martinez, a senior facing misconduct charges, confers with law student Thomas Frampton at the student conduct hearing held Feb. 18.
Taryn Erhardt/Staff
Julian Martinez, a senior facing misconduct charges, confers with law student Thomas Frampton at the student conduct hearing held Feb. 18.

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Friday's hearing for a UC Berkeley student charged with misconduct for his involvement in the November 2009 campus protests will be pushed into a second day after the hearing was bogged down by procedural concerns.

Although the hearing - held for Julian Martinez, a senior facing misconduct charges for his involvement in the November 2009 Wheeler Hall occupation - lasted for over five hours, neither party made opening statements. Instead, the hearing panel had to consider procedural issues, convening in closed session three times, which eventually resulted in some evidence being declared inadmissible and one hearing panel member recusing himself from the proceedings.

At the hearing's start, Thomas Frampton, a law student advising Martinez and member of the Campus Rights Project, raised seven procedural concerns, including the impartiality of panel members, the hearing's extended timeline, inadmissibility of evidence and a lack of aid from the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards in calling witnesses to the hearing.

The first issue Frampton raised was the impartiality of the hearing panel. Members of the panel, specifically graduate student David Fannon, had recently been involved in student disciplinary cases "that involved the exact same set of facts or a similar set of facts" as those in Martinez's case, Frampton said.

"Our concern is both with bias and the appearance of bias," he said.

However, faculty panel chair Ronald Fearing, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, dismissed the procedural concern, saying the panel had already discussed this issue prior to the hearing and ruled out the possibility of impartiality.

"The panel members have assured me that they can approach this panel with a degree of impartiality that Mr. Martinez is deserving of," Fearing said.

Frampton went on to address the issue of "extraordinary timeline violations" that he alleged have occurred in the 14 months since the November 2009 protests. He said while campus officials have maintained that timeline violations have been due to difficulties assembling hearing panels due to staff layoffs, new information revealed that this has not been the case.

Frampton said information he obtained through a public records request shows the campus held about 25 panel hearings and resolved 29 student conduct cases since January 2010.

The panel, however, ruled that it was "outside the panel's authority to dismiss the case based on this extra evidence." Following the hearing, Susan Trageser, director of the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards, was out of the office and could not be reached as of press time.

While the panel dismissed other procedural issues raised - regarding the inadmissibility of 14-month evidence and a lack of assistance from the campus Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards in summoning witnesses - they did rule that one piece of evidence to be used in the hearing was inadmissible.

Frampton alleged that a YouTube video clip was inadmissible because it had been downloaded and placed on a CD, in violation of YouTube terms and conditions, for use in the hearing. He added that the video's makers specifically requested it not be used for government purposes without permission, which would bar the UC from using it.

After the five-member panel convened privately for a third time, they returned with only four members after Fannon recused himself.

Fannon said in an e-mail that he could not comment on his recusal due to the ongoing nature of the matter and also due to "federal law, campus policy and common courtesy" regarding the protection of a student's - Martinez's - right to privacy.

After some further discussion, the hearing was adjourned with a tentative date for a second hearing slated for Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m.


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

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