Student disciplinary hearings kept closed

NORTH CAROLINA — A superior court judge ruled in December that the proceedings of student disciplinary hearings at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are confidential and do not violate the state open records law.The Daily Tarheel filed suit against the school in April 1996 to secure access to disciplinary hearings in which two students were charged in the theft of approximately 1,500 copies of another student publication, the conservative Carolina Review.The newspaper’s general manager, Kevin Schwartz, has said the paper plans to appeal the decision.In his ruling, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gordon Battle cited both the North Carolina Open Meetings Law and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, otherwise known as the Buckley Amendment, in saying that the university’s honor court has the legal right to close its hearings.Records of UNC honor court proceedings released by the school do not include names or detailed descriptions of offenses, and so verification that a hearing on the theft incident took place at all is difficult.However, according to student judicial case listings supplied by the school’s dean of students and judicial programs officer, an entry shows that two students were charged with “restraining freedom of speech of another student or group by removing publications.”The entry also includes the plea and the verdict: both were not guilty.