UC Berkeley Graduate Student's Conduct Hearing Prolonged

Carli Baker/Staff

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The second public hearing this semester for a UC Berkeley student facing misconduct charges for his participation in the November 2009 occupation of Wheeler Hall began Friday, but has been pushed into a second day, amid contention regarding the level of similarity between the current case and a case heard two weeks ago by the same hearing panel chair.

Over the course of the three-and-a half-hour hearing for Aakash Desai, a campus graduate student who has been charged with five counts of misconduct for his participation in the 2009 occupation, procedural concerns were raised, opening statements were made by both parties and the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards began to make their case before the hearing was adjourned at around 5:00 p.m.

Before the hearing, the three-member hearing panel ruled that the hearing would only occur during business hours. Past hearings have extended into the late ours of the evening or even into the next day.

Before the hearing, there had initially been concern regarding a preliminary written ruling by hearing chair Ron Fearing, a campus professor of electrical engineering and computer science. According to Thomas Frampton, a UC Berkeley School of Law student and member of the Campus Rights Project who has been advising Desai, the ruling stated that Frampton would not be allowed to speak at the hearing.

However, at the hearing Friday, Fearing said that in a conference before the hearing, the panel had ruled that Frampton would be allowed to speak during the hearing.

One of the first procedural concerns Frampton raised was about the level of similarity between Desai's student conduct case and a case heard Feb. 28 for senior Julian Martinez, who had faced misconduct for his involvement in the November 2009 occupation of Wheeler Hall. Martinez's panel - which was also chaired by Fearing - ruled that Martinez was not responsible for all five charges.

At the hearing Frampton said that the facts involved in Desai's case are "literally identical" to Martinez's.

"We're about to spend I don't know how many hours over a case that by any reasonable standards should be thrown out by now," Frampton said at the hearing. "I would suggest before we all waste each other's time, that we figure out if there's actually any new information that (the Center for Conduct and Community Standards) intends to highlight, and if not, how they could possibly justify wasting all these resources again for a case that's already been adjudicated."

However, Fearing said under the campus Code of Student Conduct, the hearing panel was unable to dismiss a case, and were only able to rule whether Desai was responsible or not responsible for the charges being brought against him.

Frampton proceeded to bring up several other procedural issues including the fact that documents - including Desai's notice of charges and evidence that the timeline for hearings had been suspended - were not included in the packets panel members had received for consideration during the hearing.

After the time limit for raising procedural concerns had been reached, Fearing read the list of violations of the campus Code of Student Conduct Desai is being charged with, including conduct threatening people's health and safety, disruption of university activities, participation in a disturbance of the peace or unlawful assembly and obstructing university officials in the performance of their duties, and unauthorized entry and use of university equipment.

Following Fearing's reading of the charges, Frampton and Jeff Woods, an assistant director for the Center for Conduct and Community Standards, gave opening statements.

In his opening statement, Woods said the purpose of the hearing was to hear information related to Desai's actions and behavior during the occupation to determine whether he was responsible for the charges. He added that the hearing "really wasn't about the (Center for Conduct and Community Standards) or the UCPD."

"Based on the information that (the center) has collected and is sharing, it is more likely than not that (Desai's) actions and his behaviors constituted violations of the charges listed in the hearing packet," Woods said.

In his opening statement, Frampton said the conduct proceedings were about four "P's" - politics, process, proof and pride.

"What I want to bring up is that there is a fourth P, which is pride," Frampton said. "The university is wasting all of our time and all of our university resources because they made charges and they don't want to be caught doing the reasonable response here which is to say 'We're going to drop the case.'"

After opening statements, Woods presented his case to the hearing panel. However, the hearing adjourned before he was finished and the case has been pushed into a second hearing, which is slated for April 1.


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

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