Earlier this semester, I noticed your front-page article on OCES Director Alesia Smith’s response to allegations by two student Senators. Like most former fraternity chapter Presidents, I’ve gotten to know my way around the OCES offices quite well, so I decided to read on.
These Senators contended that the office lacks transparency, has too broad a scope pertaining to hazing, and “unethically” uses the preponderance of evidence standard in student and organizational conduct cases.
The preponderance of evidence standard finds one guilty if a majority of the evidence supports that conclusion. Unfortunately for many fraternities on campus, the evidence considered by the office can seem quite arbitrary, and is entirely confidential.
Such was the case with my fraternity’s OCES trial. According to our current President, we were never given the details of the accusations brought against us, nor were we privy to the identity of our accuser. Many would view this practice as a clear violation of our 6th amendment rights, even if these aren’t criminal trials. OCES Director Smith, however, calls the practice “standard.”
The relevant question on campus is not whether OCES should use the preponderance of evidence, as that much has been mandated by The Department of Education. The question worth considering is one of transparency. Should the OCES be held to a higher standard of disclosure when deliberating? What kind of checks does the student body have over OCES when individual liberties of students are violated? Should student government have a more direct role in playing watchdog?
I’ve spoken to many chapter Presidents who have had similar, or worse, experiences with OCES. It is the same story every time: back door deliberations and withheld information. This cannot be allowed to continue.
This issue warrants a campus discussion, and one that should not be limited to the Greek community. The office is setting a dangerous precedent whose constitutionality is in serious question. So to you [Director Smith], the practices of OCES may be “standard”, but as history has repeatedly shown us, standard practices aren’t always ethical.