Jacksonville, Florida: As SLF predicted last summer, universities continue to use COVID-19 reporting forms to deny students their freedom of expression. Now, the forms are also being used to deprive students of their due process rights by subjecting them to unreasonable disciplinary actions. Southeastern Legal Foundation has once again stepped in to support students’ constitutional rights.
In the latest fight on campus, students at the University of North Florida (UNF) received a letter from officials saying that they were reported for violating campus COVID policies while recruiting new members for their organization. The only problem? There is no evidence supporting the claim. The students insist that they complied with COVID guidelines at all times. But it’s their word against the anonymous COVID report—and right now, the anonymous COVID report is winning.
Without investigating the claim, UNF officials are now demanding that the students attend a hearing where they will face sanctions for their actions. They can only appeal the decision to a single administrator, who ultimately chooses what discipline to impose. SLF attorney Cece O’Leary states, “The students are unaware of the evidence against them or the witnesses who claim they violated COVID guidelines. They do not know what punishment they face. And they are concerned that, even if they go through the entire hearing without being punished, nothing will stop this from happening all over again.”
According to O’Leary, even more due process violations exist in the University’s Code of Conduct. “The Code of Conduct is ripe with abuses of authority. This allows UNF to shut down student speech—especially conservative speech—from every angle.”
SLF is committed to ensuring UNF remedies its unlawful policies and will continue to monitor the situation.