Sigma Chi faces “reduced sanctions”

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That’s the headline UW is putting out. Is the emphasis on “reduced” or “sanctions”?

In May, the university’s Committee on Student Organizations levied sanctions on the chapter, 221 Langdon St., that would have kept it alcohol free through most of the 2009-10 academic year, and called for a set of specific educational and philanthropic programs.

However, the chapter successfully appealed one of the charges, arguing that its due process rights were violated.

Upon review by the Offices of the Dean of Students (ODOS) this week, the appeal on the bar incident was granted. As a result, the length of time the chapter will be on probation was reduced to seven weeks, expiring on Oct. 16. During that period the organization may not have alcohol at any chapter events. In addition, it will work with the dean’s office to improve the chapter’s “Derby Days” event in 2010.

Impressive. It’s encouraging that a group of students can use legal terms like “due process” to challenge a university sanction. If anything, the case displays the importance of granting students the right to legal representation in disciplinary cases – a right the board of regents does not seem to hold in high regard. Fraternity misconduct and individual misconduct are obviously two very different beasts – the former involves a group that is part of a cosseted national organization, usually well versed in how to deal with these “unfortunate incidents,” whereas the latter is usually an overwhelmed, stressed person with very little knowledge of his means of defense.

Nevertheless, the decision shows the dean’s office acknowledges how easily even the already-meaningless  university alcohol regulations can be misapplied. It shows that although anyone familiar with the term “fraternity” knows that everybody involved was “guilty,” university officials can still be held accountable for prosecuting the “culprits” properly.

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