West Virginia University has come under fire for telling fraternities that they don’t have due process rights under the law.
Matthew Richardson, director of the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, was caught on tape telling fraternity chapters that they don’t have due process rights. In the recording, Richardson says that fraternities can be shut down by the administration without any type of hearing.
“Student organizations do not have due process rights; they don’t,” Richardson says on the tape. “There doesn’t need to be a hearing. There doesn’t need to be anything. In theory, I can just say ‘goodbye.’”
Richardson was making the case that organizations, unlike students, do not have due process rights. This may be abstractly true. It may be the case that West Virginia University can choose simply decide to shut down a fraternity. However, Richardson’s statement, taken in the context of recent battles to ensure that students afforded due process rights when they are accused of sexual misconduct, reveals a certain tone-deafness.
More importantly, student organizations do have due process rights. A letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to West Virginia University reveals the legal framework behind this principle.
“As state entities bound by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, public universities must afford student groups fundamental due process protection before taking disciplinary action against them,” the group wrote in the letter. One case cited by FIRE requires universities “to provide fraternity with adequate notice of opposing claims, reasonable opportunity to prepare and meet them in an orderly hearing adapted to the nature of the case and finally, a fair and impartial decision.”
This week, Breitbart News reported on a law professor who received threats after she launched a legal clinic to provide representation for those who have been spuriously charged with sexual misconduct or other crimes.