The Office of Student Integrity (OSI), under the direction of Peter Paquette, assistant dean of students and director of OSI, has come under scrutiny after the Board of Regents overturned the expulsion of a John Doe who was accused of rape. Although we support the sanctions imposed on those found responsible for violating the code of conduct, we believe that those subject to the sanctions should undergo a fair process. Circumventing proper procedures can have lasting consequences; not only is the institution’s reputation tarnished when students come forth with evidence that their hearing processes were mishandled, but the outcome can significantly alter the course of the involved individuals’ lives.
Recently, there have been multiple publicly reported incidences in which the accused has claimed to not have received a fair and thorough investigation. Currently, only one man, who is closely affiliated with the school, is in charge of conducting the investigations and presenting the findings: Peter Paquette.
In addition to failing to record or fully transcribe any interaction with individuals involved in his cases, he has been alleged to leave out potential witnesses and evidence he deems irrelevant. In a recent case of a student accused of sexual misconduct, Paquette failed to question five of the six informants from the accused’s side. Not only does this show Paquette’s severe incompetence with regards to due process, but it also indicates that he fails to conduct investigations impartially. This puts the accused at an incredible disadvantage. In addition, as noted by the task force investigating the OSI process, “there is no hearing mechanism by which an accused student can challenge the bias of a hearing officer.” As a result, there is a significant amount of evidence stacked against the accused.
To exacerbate this, students frequently do not have adequate time to prepare their cases. Instances have been reported that some students received only thirty minutes to an hour to review the charges against them before their final hearing. Furthermore, since the school’s judiciary hearings are not legal hearings, a student must represent himself or herself. Students can hire lawyers, but they can only serve as advisors rather than as representatives.
OSI operates sub rosa, or privately, and this lack of transparency is unsettling. There is no doubt that there is an absence of oversight and accountability in OSI’s handling of cases, and that needs to change in order to look out for students’ best interests. This starts by having an unbiased third party entity to ensure that a fair and impartial process is being effected. Unlike the OSI review process committee which was mostly comprised of Tech-affiliated members, this third-party entity should not consist of any Tech faculty or staff. Bold steps like these can prevent future cases from being mishandled.