In a recent court case Smock v. Regents at the University of Michigan a professor was finally accorded due process.
The professor in question was alleged to have engaged in unprofessional and inappropriate conduct. The university began its own investigation and disciplinary proceedings eventually freezing the professor’s pay and sabbatical and forbade the professor from meeting with students unless it was in a professional setting.
During the investigation and hearing stage the professor was not told what the charges were until halfway through the hearing. The professor was unable to prepare any type of defense, not knowing what the alleged misconduct was. Furthermore, the accused professor was denied the right of cross examination of the accusers.
The professor sued the university. The judge ruled in the professor’s favor saying that the “inability to challenge accuser’s credibility was a denial of due process”. The judge in the case was relying upon a similar court ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in which it held that the university violated due process when they did not allow the student accused of sexual impropriety to cross examine witnesses.
So what does this mean for professors at Penn State and other colleges and universities? If a professor is accused of some inappropriate conduct and the university launches a Title IX investigation, professors must assert their right to receive notice of the charges as well as demand the right to cross examine accusers.