SLATE AND DUE PROCESS: ABSTRACT - From the full text.
On the stated ground that he had no other recourse after the student organization, Slate, committed an "apparent violation" of its terms of recognition, Dean William F. Shepard suspended the group from its on- campus status, effective June 9, 1961. He also declared that "The Committee on Recognition is being asked to recommend to the Administration the final disposition of this matter."
In the suspension of Slate we believe that the fundamental democratic guarantee of due process has been violated by the Administration.
Stated in general terms, the purpose of the constitutional guarantee of due process is to exclude arbitrary power from every branch of the government and to restrain the legislative, judicial, and executive departments. Due process includes a hearing, after notice, before a board or officer empowered to hear and determine the issues presented. An individual has the right to have his case tried and determined under the same rules of procedure that are applied to other similar cases. The courts have applied strict rules of due process, not only to branches of the government itself, but to colleges and universities, as well as non-governmental institutions such as labor unions, religious groups, fraternal, social, and professional associations.
In the controversy between Slate and the Administration, we believe that the best means to measure due process -- or its absence -- is by analyzing the events that triggered the June 9th suspension, and evaluating the channels by which the Administration permitted Slate to defend itself.
Three significant events occurred prior to Slate's suspension on June 9, 1961.
1) With relation to Slate's sale of a record album, Dean William F. Shepard informed the organization (March 30, 1961) that it "must abide by the original terms of recognition and refrain from identifying itself as a student political party."
2) A telegram was sent to The Ohio State Lantern, by Mike Myerson. This letter was published April 17, 1961. This telegram praised the statements of Governor Brown, President Kerr, and Chancellor Strong in connection with the campus appearance of Frank Wilkinson, and contrasted their position with the action taken by the Administration of Ohio State University, which had prohibited a controversial speaker from appearing on campus. The telegram was signed. "Michael Myerson, Chairman, Slate, Campus Political Party, University of California." No mention of this telegram was made by the Administration at the time.
3) In a conference with Dean Shepard (May 11, 1961) Mr. Myerson was told again not to use the phrase "campus political party", with regard to a campaign leaflet. Mr. Myerson informed Dean Shepard that the phrase was used by someone who was unaware of the March 30th letter. As Dean Shepard later indicated (in his letter to Myerson -- June 9, 1961), he (the dean) had been "willing to accept this as a reasonable explanation."
Keeping these events in mind, we now turn to the letter of June 9, 1961 in which Dean Shepard announced the suspension of Slate. In this letter, Dean Shepard referred to his letter of March 30th and the conference of May 11th and stated that at the time of the conference he was not aware of Slate's April 17th telegram to the Ohio State Lantern. Now that he had heard of the telegram, which
"is an apparent violation of your terms of recognition, a violation which occurred after due warning, we have no recourse but to suspend the recognition of your organization. Hence, your organization may in no way identify itself with the University nor use any of its facilities, including those under the supervision of the Associated Students.
"The Committee on Recognition is being asked to recommend to the Administration the final disposition of this matter."
This letter raised a number of serious issues:
(1) Dean Shepard referred to "due warning." Did Slate, in fact, receive "due warning" when the March 30th letter seemed to be directed against Slate's use of the University's name in a commercial enterprise (i.e. the sale of phonograph records) and the May 11th conference occurred after the telegram was sent?
(2) "We have no recourse", said Dean Shepard, "but to suspend the recognition of your organization." This statement implies that there is a mandatory requirement of suspension in some regulation, governing the conduct of the Dean of Students. If such a regulation exists, the Dean should have identified it so that Slate could have examined its provisions. (Note that a regulation of this type, requiring suspension without a hearing, falls short of due process requirements.) If, in fact, no such regulation existed and the Dean's act was a discretionary move, the suspension should have been based on validly established grounds, proven in a fair hearing.
(3) Dean Shepard stated as the next procedural step in this controversy that, "The Committee on Recognition is being asked to recommend to the Administration the final disposition of this matter." Contrast this procedure with the steps taken to suspend Beta Theta Phi for violations of University regulations, as reported in the Daily Californian, March 7, 1961, p. 1.
In this fraternity case, the suspension process involved the following steps: the Interfraternity Council Judicial Committee cited two violations; the Interfraternity Council recommended that disciplinary measures be taken; the Committee on Student Affairs reviewed and accepted these recommendations; Acting Chancellor Edward Strong then approved the action of the Committee on Student Affairs, at which point the University suspended recognition of the fraternity, subject to review prior to the fall semester of 1961.
Underlying the fraternity suspension is a series of recommendations from inferior tribunals to superior ones, until, after all other steps have been exhausted, Chancellor Strong expressed a final, binding opinion. This procedure meets the requirement that a case should pass from lower to higher orders of authority in order to permit a fair evaluation at each successive level.
The circumstances surrounding Slate's suspension, however, revealed a procedure in which due process safeguards were violated. Dean Shepard first expressed his opinion and initiated the suspension, and then turned the matter over to a committee which is inferior to him in rank and is composed of members he appointed. This committee was the group which was asked for a "recommendation."
Thus, long before Slate was allowed any kind of hearing of its grievances, due process had been violated in the matter of its suspension and its case had been publically prejudiced.