The student, Jake Baker, wrote a sexually violent story and posted it to the alt.sex.stories newsgroup. Though I haven't read the story myself, the Michigan Daily reports that it involved "torturing a woman with a hot curling iron, and mutilating and sodomizing her while she is gagged to a chair". Unfortunately for Mr. Baker, he used his own account to post the article, and used the name of a female student in one of his classes as the victim.
A UM alumnus in Moscow read the story, and complained to the University President's office about its content. The President, James Duderstadt, summarily suspended the student without a hearing, despite a student court system on campus. Duderstadt cited Regents' Bylaw 2.01, which gives the president the power to maintain the "health, diligence, and order among the students." Mr. Baker was notified of his suspension on 2/1/95 by several armed police officers, who took him to his dorm room for clothes, and then escorted him to the edge of campus with instructions not to set foot on university property. Mr. Baker is now living in a hotel room off campus.
The FBI is also investigating Baker for violation of federal anti-obscenity laws, under the new computer-trafficking pornography law.
Duderstadt claimed that Baker presented an immediate threat to the female student, and required immediate removal from campus. It should be noted that Baker has never even spoken to the female student, or threatened her in any way aside from this story. (perhaps someone can repost the story to this thread, so we all know what the big deal is? The story was apparently called "Pamela's Ordeal", posted 1/9/95.) The female student (her name was mentioned in local news stories) apparently was unaware of the existence of the story until interviewed. The local press reports that Baker has never been in trouble with the law or the university before.
According to university spokesperson Lisa Baker, "It's not the policy of the university to punish people for pornographic messages. There are other issues around this that I can't discuss." University law professor and "constitutional scholar" Catharine Mackinnon has called the issue not one of free speech, but of violence against women. As Capt. James Smiley of the Department of Public Safety put it, "He was asked to leave and he's outta here." No questions asked.
Since the story was leaked to the press, the administration has scheduled a hearing this Thursday, 2/9/95, to determine whether he poses a threat. This hearing will be closed to the public, and although he is allowed to have an advisor (who may be an attorney), he must represent himself. (That is, he may not be represented by an attorney.) The standard of evidence used will be "clear and convincing", as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt" used in the US justice system.
Civil liberties groups, including the ACLU and Student Civil Liberties Watch, are upset over the university's actions. The ACLU has a case pending against the university regarding the closed hearings and lack of legal representation for the defendant. In one recent hearing which was apparently only opened under pressure from the ACLU and press, a single administrator acted as prosecutor, mediator, and advisor to the jury; the defendant was openly ridiculed by university representatives and railroaded into a conviction. After another recent (closed) hearing which found the defendant guilty of stalking, the plaintiff was charged with leaking the story to the campus newspaper. Participants in the hearings are not allowed access to transcripts of the hearings, and in the one open hearing recording devices and cameras were not allowed. The university cites FERPA as forcing them to hold closed hearings on non-academic conduct, even though lawsuits at other universities have demonstrated that this is not the case.
Given such a track record, it does not appear that Mr. Baker has much of a chance; the university hearing system has been called a "kangaroo kourt" in the local press.
The ACLU has raised the questions of why the university waited so long to act (3 weeks) if Mr. Baker is such a threat, why the university considers him a threat if they hadn't investigated or interviewed him, why the university did not follow due process in the first place, and why the university would hold a hearing to consider reinstating him if he is considered too dangerous to walk on university property.
I would provide references, but the Michigan Daily and Detroit Free Press are not available online. The people mentioned in this article all have email addresses which may be found by fingering their names @umich.edu . The story has appeared in AP, so you might find it online somewhere.
| Peter J. Swanson | firstname.lastname@example.org |
| PhD Candidate | controls specialist |
| Electrical Engineering:Systems | impact, chaotic motion, |
| University of Michigan | vibratory part orientation |