FOLLOW UP- Suspect of the Feb. 9, 2008 vandalism in Harrill Residence Hall has been found.
Detective Robbie Carter, Officer Trent Turpin, and Lieutenant Kent Davis arrested 22-year-old WCU student Anand Rushikesh Mehta just after he got out of class the week before Spring Break.
University Chief of Police Tom Johnson said that the police received an anonymous tip from a young woman, a student at WCU, a few weeks after the incident. She identified one of the men as Mehta.
“We appreciate the student coming forward, and we definitely couldn’t have found the guy without the help of students,” Johnson said. “We definitely appreciate the help from the community.”
The second suspect is still not identified. Yet, he was believed to be just present during the vandalism.
“Based on the investigation the one we arrested was the main person to vandalize Harrill,” Johnson said. “The other suspect was just present.”
After his arrest, Mehta was turned over to Walter Turner, Director of Student Student Judicial Affairs. Turner said that he could not speak of what happened to Mehta due to the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which gives students the right to their privacy.
“I can’t give any information regarding the student because I would violate their right to privacy,” Turner said.
Johnson said that Mehta was held with an $8,000 bond. He is out on bond and was given a court date.
Turner said that in the event a student makes a bad decision and violates the school’s code of conduct, which is described in the student handbook, “the student has the right to a notification and hearing.” Dickson vs. Alabama case in 1961 was the foundation for giving students this right.
Although Turner could not speak specifically regarding the case he could speak about the judicial process, which is deeper and more complicated than is shown here.
“Decisions in the student judicial process is based on preponderance,” Turner said. Is it more likely than not that the violation did occur? We don’t deal with guilt, but we think in terms of responsibility. Are they responsible or not?”
The process of student judicial affairs begins when a report is written.
“Anyone can file charges against any student for misconduct which will start the process,” Turner said. “We would then follow up with the reported student.”
In most cases, once a report is filed and student judicial affairs see a need to investigate, students will meet with their RD, called an “initial meeting,” to tell their side of the story. Although student student judicial affairs have found reason to investigate, the student is not always found responsible for the action.
“They talk to the student to find out their side of the story,” Turner said. “If the student and the RD come to an agreement about what happened, it closes the case. If the violation did occur what would the sanctions be?”
Once the RD and student come to an agreement the student has to fill out an ‘Acknowledgment of Charges’ slip forfeiting the right to a hearing. The then fill out a ‘Case Adjudication Form,’ which they will decide together what sanction will be placed on the student
According to the student handbook, sanctions are intended to educate the student about their actions, the consequences of their actions and how their actions affect the community around. Each sanction is placed on the student based on the severity of their violation of the code of conduct.
“Generally speaking, the less serious behavior, the less serious sanction,” Turner said. “The more serious behavior, the more serious sanction the student will get.”
It’s the student’s choice. The student is not forced to close the case with a mutual agreement. It is the student’s choice and right to decide whether they want to sign a mutual agreement or have a hearing.
“It’s the student’s right and/or option to decide if they want a hearing,” Turner said.
According to Turner it is not necessary to set up a hearing, but if the RD and student do not agree upon what happened or the student requests it, a hearing will be scheduled.
According to the student handbook, students are not required to attend the hearing, but there is consequences if the student does not show up.
“If students don’t show up, the hearing will continue, but it prevents the student’s voice from being heard,” Turner said.
During the hearing, the board will listen to the student’s side of the story, collect facts and then decide which sanction to bestow on the student responsible.
According to Tuner there are two phases to the hearing. Phase 1 is the finding phase where the board gathers information, hears the student’s story and asks questions about the student’s characters. Phase 2 is the sanctioning phase where the board goes behind closed doors to ask the question “is the student responsible for the charges?” If the answer is ‘no’ the student is released, but if the answer is ‘yes’ the board will decide which sanction to place on the student.
WCU’s student judicial process exists to help educate the students about their behavior. Turner wants the students to learn from their mistakes and become better people.
“We want our process and the sanctions to be educational in nature,” Turner said. “We want students to learn from their situations and change their behavior. We want the students to make better decisions, and learn that all behaviors have consequences whether they may be good or bad.”