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The Daily Tar Heel

Foster's defense of benign act was not pointless at all


Last week's editorial - "What's the point?" - argued that Foster "did the University community no favors by launching an ineffective defense." However, this opinion is flawed by a misunderstanding of basic aspects of the University's honor system.

Most shocking is the Editorial Board's suggestion that by attending a "preliminary meeting, (Foster) could have avoided Honor Court action in the first place."

This reflects a profound lack of understanding on the part of the Editorial Board.

The student attorney general charges students with Honor Court violations based on the available facts of the case, not the personality or disposition of the accused student. Failing to show up for a meeting is never the reason that a student is charged with an Honor Code violation.

Moreover, the Editorial Board dismisses Foster's defense as ineffective and "far beyond the scope of the board's review." But the DTH did not explain its understanding of that scope.

The question before the University Hearings Board was: Did the Honor Court have a reasonable basis to find the student guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt?

The Editorial Board wrote that the defense addressed "almost everything but the central issues relating to (Foster's) conviction."

What would such central issues be? Surely, the defense was not so far off the mark in mentioning that for one of the charges, no evidence at all was presented in the original hearing.

The defense also highlighted a contradiction in the Honor Court's rationale when it decided that Foster was guilty of misusing the ATN Onyen service but not guilty of violating the ATN acceptable use policy.

Finally, the defense argued that because Foster's actions were satirical and harmless, they did not amount to an Honor Code violation even if they violated the letter of the Code.

Perhaps Foster's violation was not so clear-cut as the DTH would have the University community believe. Certainly, the University has more important issues to deal with than cases like this.

But for Foster, there is little more important than defending his innocence and attempting to avoid the 10-year disciplinary record that he now carries. If this case was a "pointless exercise," that is because trivial and harmless actions should not land students in Honor Court, where the stakes are so high for their educational and professional futures.

Adrian Johnston
Defense counsel to Chase Foster

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