NY court slams university for denying student due process

A New York university was found guilty by a state appellate court of denying a student due process during disciplinary hearings “devoid” of facts.

The July 6 decision by the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department of the state Supreme Court condemned the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) for disciplining a student, Tyrone Hill, based on a claim that was “devoid of any evidence, much less substantial evidence.” 

UB’s disciplinary ruling was “unanimously annulled” by the court which further ordered the school to “expunge all references” of the incident from Hill’s records.

[RELATED: SURVEY: ‘Vast majority’ of college students demand due process]

The UB Student Conduct and Advocacy office had originally charged Hill with possession of weapons and engaging in harassment following an alleged altercation last year between a group of male students and a truck driver.

According to an unidentified witness who spoke with police, the students were shouting at a “white male” in a pickup truck, who proceed to exit the vehicle with what appeared to be a black gun.

UB student Zachary Lefebvre, who matched the description of the truck driver, was initially identified by police who searched his truck and discovered an Airsoft gun. While Lefebvre was charged with illegally carrying a weapon on school grounds, he told law enforcement officials that the man who pointed the gun at the students was Hill, who was his passenger.

When questioned by police, Hill admitted to being in the vehicle during the incident but denied exiting the vehicle, picking up, or even seeing the weapon. 

Despite never being arrested or charged by the police, Hill was asked to attend a university hearing after which he was informed by UB that it was “more likely than not” that he had held and pointed the airsoft gun at the students and that he was “untruthful.”

[RELATED: STUDY: Most top schools deny ‘basic elements’ of due process]

As a result of the school’s probe, which was not documented or recorded, Hill was sanctioned with two years of disciplinary probation, 50 hours of community service, and revocation of his on-campus housing privileges, prompting Hill to challenge the ruling in court.

“[W]e are compelled to express our dismay at respondent’s cavalier attitude toward petitioner’s due process rights in this case,” the Court concluded. 

“[W]e remind [UB]—and all other colleges and universities, particularly state-affiliated institutions—of their unwavering obligation to conduct student disciplinary proceedings in a manner that comports with fundamental notions of due process for the accused, that renders determinations consistent with the facts, and that respects the presumption of innocence to which all students are entitled,” the Court added.

[RELATED: Syracuse suspends 16 students for satirical frat roast]

UB spokesman Jon DellaContrada told Campus Reform that “in accordance with the court’s ruling,” the school “will revise its procedures to fully record all student administrative hearings” 

“The university is strongly committed to ensuring that all student disciplinary matters are fair and equitable,” DellaContrada added.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Grace_Gotcha