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The Daily Tar Heel

Forum Today To Mull Merits Of Court, Code

The forum will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Fetzer Gym, with Moeser moderating the event. Dean Bresciani and Sue Kitchen, associate vice chancellors for student affairs, and Provost Robert Shelton are some officials expected to be in attendance.

And discussion was primed Monday night when the Joint Senate of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies held a debate examining the student judicial system because of recent controversy involving several of the Honor Court's rulings.

"We chose a variety of topics at the beginning of the semester that we would like to debate," said junior international studies major Michael Hoffman. "We chose the Honor Court because it is a pressing issue at the University."

The issue of Honor Court reform surfaced in October when the court convicted two students for cheating during an open hearing. Professor James Coggins turned in 22 other students from his Computer Science 120 class at the end of the 2000 spring semester with similar charges.

On Feb. 9, the appellate panel dismissed the case of senior Mike Trinh, one of the two students in the open hearing, upon finding that his basic rights had been violated. Trinh was accused of unauthorized collaboration on a homework assignment.

Other case dismissals sparked an interest in the court's system of representation in junior William Hashemi. He created the Independent Defense Council, which comprises UNC pre-law undergraduates, to offer students alternative representation.

Hashemi said the current system poses a conflict of interest because both prosecutors and defense counsels are under the auspices of the Student Attorney General's Office.

Both sides of the debate were argued by DiPhi senators in Monday's forum titled "The Student Judicial System Is Ineffective." Aspects of the court's procedures that students felt lead to unfair trials were discussed at the forum. "In the Honor Court, there is a conflict in the Student Attorney General's Office," said senior Brandon Briscoe, a friend of Trinh's who has spoken out against the Honor Court. "They can both prosecute against and defend the same student."

Briscoe said the selection system for Honor Court members should be open to more students and be more relaxed.

But other DiPhi senators felt the Honor Court is efficient and said the system has historically proven its effectiveness. They said the court is important in continuing students' abilities to govern themselves.

"I feel better knowing that it is selective," said senior Ruwani Opatha. "It takes a lot of guts to tell your peers, 'You've done something wrong, and you have to be suspended.'"

In a final vote of nine to eight, DiPhi senators voted against the position that the student judicial system was ineffective.

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