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Student conduct hearings begin for Wheeler Hall occupation
30 September 2002

From Media Relations

BERKELEY - The first student conduct hearing related to the April 9, 2002, occupation of Wheeler Hall began today (Monday, 9/30). A series of administrative hearings, in which approximately 30 students face charges that they violated the campus Code of Student Conduct, have been scheduled and are expected to conclude by the end of October.

Today's hearing was presided over by a three-person hearing panel chaired by Professor David Zusman. The hearing panel consisted of two faculty members and a UC Berkeley student. The hearing is continuing.

In all, 41 students involved in the Wheeler Hall protest were charged with various violations of UC Berkeley's Code of Student Conduct, including "obstruction or disruption of teaching or other university activity." The student whose hearing was held today also faces charges of biting a police officer during his arrest. Nine students did not contest the charges and have settled their cases, while the others requested a hearing.

The Wheeler Hall charges stem from an April 9 action in which 78 people, including the 41 students, were arrested. The group, advocating that the UC Board of Regents divest from companies that do business with Israel, had marched from a Sproul Plaza rally and rushed past police officers and into the lobby of Wheeler Hall. Inside the building, classes were in session and some students were taking midterm exams. Read more...

A Q&A about the Student Conduct hearings and the student judicial affairs process in general

Q: Did student protesters know that their actions could result in suspensions?

A: In the hearing today, the dean of students, Karen Kenney, testified that the protest and occupation of the Wheeler Hall lobby on April 9, 2002, had disrupted classes. She said student groups, including students involved in the sit-in, had been repeatedly warned by Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl and student affairs officials prior to April 9 that disruption of the academic mission of the campus could result in sanctions "up to and including suspension or expulsion."

Q: Some of the students and their supporters have charged that the students face these sanctions because they support Palestine. Is this true?

A: The dean of students repeatedly testified that there was no political bias in the filing of the charges or the proposed sanctions. She said protests and rallies are an expected and valued part of the UC Berkeley culture, but that there are limitations outlined in the campus's rules and regulations that bar protests from interfering with the university's ability to carry out its academic mission, its most important function.

She testified that any student or group of students who intentionally disrupted a classroom building would face the possibility of the same sanctions, up to and including suspension or expulsion.

Q: Are the student conduct charges related to the criminal charges that were filed against some students involved in the protest?

A: University student conduct processes and the criminal courts are two different and distinct systems. Also, criminal cases require conviction based on a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. UC Berkeley's Code of Student Conduct calls for a conviction based on a preponderance of evidence.

Q: Why are some conduct hearings closed to the public and others open?

A: A student's hearing is always closed unless the student asks for it to be open. Even in that case, the faculty member who chairs the hearing panel may decide to keep a hearing closed for several reasons, which are outlined in the Code of Student Conduct. One of those reasons is to ensure an orderly hearing can be held.

At today's hearing, the chair of the hearing panel closed the hearing to the general public, but allowed news reporters to attend and report on the proceedings.

Outside the hearing, about 100 to 150 supporters of the student whose case was being heard massed around police barricades to protest the closing of the hearing and chanted loudly their demands that the charges be dropped.