Most students arrive at the University of Michigan expecting to learn a little something about the real world. But those whose actions through one way or another conflict with the Student Code of Conduct will soon realize that the University administration functions less like an ambassador of society and more like a surrogate parent. The home life of most students isn”t a democracy, as nurturing parents can sometimes be dictatorial and arbitrary this metaphor can be extended to the University administration under the Code. Its flaws allow instances of unfairness and injustice.
Consider the case of Brian Montieth, who was charged and found guilty of destroying University property. Before leaving for winter break in 1996, Montieth was approached by two Department of Public Safety officers who asked to search his room. They informed him that someone in his West Quad Residence hallway had just been launching apples across the street against the Fleming building and had broken some windows.
Despite a hall mate”s eventual confession, the administration believed Montieth was involved. According to Montieth, it threatened him with a more severe punishment if he pleaded not guilty and attempted to defend himself. Montieth claims the only evidence the administration possessed was a statement from the dormitory housekeeper that she remembers hearing his remarks about a broken window. Seeing no other options, he entered a guilty plea. Montieth”s case shows the potential for the administration to function as prosecutor, jury and judge under the Code the U.S. Constitution forbids one body from assuming all these roles at once.
Consider also the case of Ryan Hughes, who was recently charged with assault and vandalism for allegedly spray-painting the sign of an anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender demonstrator at the LGBT Kiss-in in the Diag. DPS arrested Hughes and forwarded a complaint to the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. OSCR continued prosecuting even though Hughes” so-called victim never filed charges. The Code prevented his lawyer from speaking on his behalf during meetings with administrators. Hughes” case highlights the potential for excessive prosecution under the Code.
In an e-mail sent to The Daily, Hughes states that as of April 13 the administration has officially dropped its case against him. According to Hughes, the administration was prosecuting based on a complaint it had received the subsequent withdrawal of the complaint prompted the administration to drop the case completely. Since it is believed that Hughes” victim never filed charges, there may not have been a “complaint” at all. In the end it seems the administration was prosecuting Hughes based only on a report that DPS filed as a matter of procedure.
Based on the available information, the administration”s recent actions seem to be motivated by damage-control intentions it unjustly used its extensive powers of prosecution against Hughes and, because of the undesired attention generated by Hughes” case, has shifted the blame onto an undefined third party. It seems that under the Code, the administration possesses the power both to arbitrarily charge students and to drop those charges for its convenience. Hopefully, the administration”s recent actions (however Machiavellian) are an indication that it is beginning to recognize the Code”s flaws.