Under House Bill 843 — the Students & Administration Equality Act — any student or student organization in the North Carolina university system charged with violating the university’s code of conduct will be afforded the right to be represented by counsel during any formal disciplinary procedures. Counsel can be a licensed attorney or a non-attorney advocate.
University administrative proceedings currently have written policies that deny students the right to legal counsel when interacting with administrators.
Typically, a university’s code of conduct will address conduct affecting persons, property, or the integrity of the institution and this legislation does not apply to students accused of academic dishonesty — such as cheating or plagiarism. Nor does it apply in cases where a Student Honor Court has been established to adjudicate alleged violations, where the court is entirely composed of students, such as at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) supports the legislation in its current form, as amended by the House Rules Committee, stating that “this legislation brings the university system in line with the legal protections already afforded to students in K-12.”
HB843 passed in the House on May 15, 2013 with near unanimous support and is now before the Senate for consideration.