“The Record Is Apparent”: Judge Condemns Syracuse University For Actions Against Fraternity In Racial Slur Case

Syracuse University was repeatedly criticized for a failure to guarantee due process and free speech rights for both students. Now, a state judge has contested the university over the treatment of a fraternity which the court found”did nothing wrong” at a racial slur incident . The University continues yet to shield a procedure that was fraught with due process issues.  I’ve been a critic of the lack of due process on our campuses. This became particularly acute when the Obama Administration pressured universities to reduce such protections — a policy that the Biden Administration now appears to moving to reinstate.

This is a part of the factual background found by Justice Scott DelConte of Onondaga County Supreme Court:

At around seven pm. The group left the fraternity home, on foot, and led to a local apartment and watch a basketball game. Even though they were walking together, one of those individuals in the category — identified only as K.F. — temporarily ran towards a girl standing out of a parked automobile (Id.) . According to the girl — who immediately reported the incident to the University Department of Public Safety — K.F. and many others in the group shouted racial slurs at her.

An investigation was launched but the next morning University Chancellor Kent Syverud announced he had been”deeply angered” and that”the individuals involved have been identified and will be held appropriately accountable to the Code of Student Conduct and to the complete extent of the law.” He guaranteed to work together with the Syracuse Police Department to bring charges against those responsible. The court called Syverud’s comments a”seemingly predisposed public statement” of guilt.
2 hearings were held however, at the crucial second hearing, the college resisted the attorney for the fraternity from being current — a denial of due process that has been utilized by other universities to hamper the defense of students or teams in such event.
Then something remarkable occurred.  The Appeals Board ruled that”University policy doesn’t offer a basis on which to obtain the respondent [fraternity] responsible for the conduct that the lower Board found to have occurred” and further found that K.F.”was not a guest of the fraternity and is not a Syracuse University student.” Therefore,”[he] could not serve as an agent of their fraternity and [there’s ] no additional basis on which [the fraternity] could be held responsible for his alleged actions”
On the other hand, the college had already effectively announced guilt that the day following the episode.  So, in a unilateral decision, Senior Vice President for Enrollment Dolan Evanovich overruled the college’s appeals board.  While Evanovich admitted that”it is true the Code [of Student Conduct] doesn’t explicitly cover guests of associations, this kind of expectation exists during the University’s Fraternity and Sorority Affairs policies.”
Evanovich’s claim is roundly rejected by the court:

There’s no provision at the Fraternity and Sorority Affairs policy, or the Code of Student Conduct, that enables the University to punish fraternities or the independent, off-campus actions of former guests (NYSCEF Documents. 9, 23, 26). Fraternities can’t police the announcements of their former allies who depart campus, and it might be irrational to have, or apply, a policy that punishes fraternities, or alternative pupil social associations, for conduct they cannot control. While the Courts will normally defer to a college’s interpretation of its own policies, such deference doesn’t extend to”unreasonable or absurd” interpretations, like Evanovich progress here.

As the Conduct Board discovered that none of its fraternity members uttered any derogatory or racially offensive statements. Evanovich’s determination that the fraternity is responsible for K.F.’s alleged harassment — which occurred off-campus and was not witnessed by some other fraternity members — doesn’t have any logical basis. As such, his rejection from the Appeals Board decision must be viewed as random (Pell v Board of Education of Union Free School District No.l, 34 NY2d 222,231 [ 974]), and also the Appeals Board decision reinstated.AXP, as the fraternity is famous, speculated that Syracuse desired to act tough in reaction to ongoing protests against alleged racial graffiti at a short circuit, so it created an example of AXP.

Sites like College Fix have alleged that the initial report of the complainant were contradicted by other witnesses and video proof.  However, it is tricky to judge such proof either way given the absolute lack of due process afforded by the college.  In the very start of this controversy, the Syracuse University appeared to abandon the pretense of neutrality or obligation in the adjudication of this dispute.  This proved to be a really serious allegation that warrants intensive evaluation. Yet, the college went beyond saying a commitment to discovering the facts and acted in strategies to bias the results of the event.
The college remains unapologetic and apparently undeterred. Similar to the recent episode at Smith College, there is no indication it will alter its practices or afford more due process protections in the future. That is a frightening prospect for students and parents that rely on Syracuse University to protect the rights of all students.
Here’s the view: Alpha Chi Rho v. Syracuse University