Although the law allowing students to hire attorneys in student conduct cases passed more than four months ago, its implications on fairness in student-versus-student cases are still not clear.
The Students and Administration Equality Act was signed into law this summer, and allows students in student conduct cases to hire an attorney or non-attorney advocate, except in situations involving academic dishonesty or the Honor Court.
“The whole intent of the legislation is to put a student or a student organization on the same playing field as the university,” said Rep. John Bell, R-Craven, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, adding that the goal was to let the students keep their rights and due process.
The UNC-system General Administration immediately adopted guidelines for campuses, saying that students can hire attorneys at their own expense.
But in cases where both defendant and complainant are students, there is a possibility that only one side could procure legal representation.
“It is a potential issue where one student has representation but the other does not,” said Thomas Shanahan, vice president and general counsel for the system.
UNC-system campuses adjusted their policies to match the legislation, with most, if not all, administrations using primary evaluations throughout the summer to ease the transition.
Christi Hurt, interim Title IX coordinator at UNC-CH, said in an email that the University is looking at the law and system’s recommendations.
“We will also be taking into consideration how we can best provide a fair and impartial process that protects the rights of all parties,” she said in an email.