College Student Suspended for Two Semesters for Protesting "Zero-Tolerance" Policy 4/17/98

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Bryan Anderson, a student at Southwest Texas State University, is fed up with the Texas State University system's zero-tolerance policy which mandates a minimum two semester suspension for any student caught in possession of an illegal substance for any reason. Anderson is so fed up, in fact that he has set himself up as its latest victim in an effort to bring it down. On January 28, Anderson stood on the campus' central Quad, read a statement denouncing the policy, and lit a joint in front of campus police. He was arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail.

On Thursday, April 2, Anderson's case was heard by a tribunal consisting of two University-selected students and one faculty member. At that hearing, Anderson was not permitted to question witnesses against him, nor to present evidence in mitigation. The tribunal's decision, mailed to him last week, was that he too would serve a two-semester suspension.

Anderson is already a local celebrity in San Marcos Texas. For the past year he has been a disc jockey for KIND-Radio, a "pirate" station which operates at low power (under 10 Watts) without an FCC license. KIND-Radio, like other unlicensed broadcasters, has been involved in an ongoing legal battle with the FCC over its right to exist. KIND-Radio, which broadcasts to the San Marcos community at 105.9 FM, seems to have broad local support in their struggle. KIND-Radio also broadcasts over the net in Realaudio at http://www.mediadesign.net.

Anderson has no intention of backing down. He told The week Online, "There have been a couple of other students who have decided to challenge the University's disciplinary code, but once they either graduated or pressured the University enough to have their tuition refunded, they backed out. But unlike most of the students who are caught up in the system, I didn't get caught with marijuana in my dorm room, I purposely and publicly smoked a joint in order to protest an unjust policy."

David Sergi, Anderson's attorney, spoke with The Week Online. "The hearing, as mandated in the University's disciplinary handbook, does not allow for student's cases to be considered on an individual basis. There is no provision for the presentation of mitigating evidence, and no opportunity for the student to question the witnesses against him. There's a case, decided by the District Court in Austin (Payne v. U. of Texas System), and affirmed by reference by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which states that within the University System, each student has the right to present mitigating evidence. In other words, there can be no "mandatory minimum" punishment based solely on the act itself. Each case and each student must be considered individually."

The school, however, is arguing that they are in compliance with this requirement. "The school claims that there is a right to appeal to the University president" said Sergi. "But this option is not published anywhere, and therefore students have no way of knowing that it exists. In addition, this right of appeal is at the sole discretion of the president. That doesn't exactly look like due process as the Texas courts have apparently defined it."

Anderson plans to appeal to the president and to seek an injunction in district court against the imposition of the suspension.

NOTE: DRCNet subscribers are urged to email editors of both the Austin American Statesman at [email protected] and the San Marcos Daily Record at [email protected]. You might consider telling them that any university policy, especially at a state school, which refuses to allow the facts of an individual case to be aired, is a poor way of educating students as to the tenets of the American system of justice. Or you might just let them know that Bryan Anderson's act of civil disobedience highlights the absurdity of filling Texas prisons with non-violent marijuana users. Whatever your take on this incident, the very act of writing to the editor will let the local press, and the Texas state University system know that people across the country, and around the world, are watching.

AND: Don't forget to check out KIND-Radio at http://www.mediadesign.net. Tell 'em DRCNet sent you!

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Issue #38, 4/17/98 Week Online Reprint Policy | UN Ambassador Richardson heads to Afghanistan... Narcotics Tops Agenda | "Global Days Against the Drug War" United Nations Protest Takes Shape | Press Release: Dutch Study Finds Marijuana Use Lower than Previously Thought | Commerce Department Report: Over 100 Million People Online... but most of them not on DRCNet | College Student Suspended for Two Semesters for Protesting Zero-Tolerance Policy | Special Report: Medical Marijuana in Canada, and its Potential Impact on the US | Events Coming Up | Editorial: The 20-Apr Debate
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