Editorial: Closed hearings, open issues

Student conduct hearings should be open to the public, like U.S. courts.

Should a student-athlete charged with a felony still be allowed to attend class and play on a sports team? It’s a question we posed to numerous Temple officials last week, including the Dean of Students, the head football coach and an associate athletic director.

Kamal Johnson, a senior defensive tackle on the football team, is awaiting trial in October on charges of aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and recklessly endangering another person. He could serve jail time if convicted on some or all of the charges.

However, his status as a student is unchanged.

When asked why, Temple officials balked at the question and referred us to Johnson’s student conduct hearing, a secretive proceeding that deals with violations of the Student Conduct Code.

This process, officials made it clear, is separate from any legal battle that a student may face in court. A student’s standing at the university relies solely on the verdict of his/her student conduct hearing.

Dean of Students Stephanie Ives took it one step further, telling us: “It doesn’t matter to the university what a criminal charge is.” However, Ives, per Temple policy, refused to discuss any specific cases.

It’s wrong for the university to make private such relevant information to the Temple community. Students and faculty have a right to know why a student charged with a felony that could be punishable by up to 10 years in jail is still allowed to walk around Main Campus.

The student conduct hearing system should be set up like the courts, where information on criminal proceedings is a matter of open record.

There should be an online database, similar to the Cherry & White pages, where members of the community are able to search the name of a student and find out if he/she is charged with a crime or in possible violation of the Student Conduct Code. Reporters, students, faculty and other members of the Temple community should be able to attend student conduct hearings.

We understand the university’s vested interest in setting up its own judicial process separate from the courts, but it’s wrong for Temple to conduct those proceedings behind closed doors.

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