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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

First set of charges against Darwish dismissed in appeal

Published: April 11, 2008
Section: Front Page

The University Board of Appeals dismissed one set of charges against TYP student Mamoon Darwish at a hearing on April 8.

“The fact that I appealed an administrative decision and then won the appeal is a big issue because it’s something new to the Brandeis community,” Darwish wrote in an e-mail to The Hoot.

Darwish “had two cases before him,” Director of Student Conduct Advisors Laura Cohen ’09 explained in an e-mail message. “One case concerns an alleged incident and the other concerns a fight. This incident is called an “alleged” incident because the accusing body retracted their statement and claimed that the event never occurred.”

When Darwish’s case was originally considered, both charges were part of the same case. The cases “had been merged, the [first] appeal split them, now we’re having two hearings” before the Board of Appeals, said Union Advocate Brian Paternostro ’08. “Tuesday was the rehearing that the appeal created,” he added.

Because Darwish did not plea responsible or not responsible to the charges against him within 48 hours after they were first issued, it was considered as though he pled responsible. As such, he did not have a hearing before the University Board of Student Conduct and was sanctioned. Because “you can appeal a sanction even if you don’t have a hearing,” Darwish was able to file an appeal even though he did not have an original hearing, Paternostro explained.

Student conduct cases are first referred to Director of Student Development and Conduct Erika Lamarre. Students have “48 hours to decide whether or not they want a hearing [before the University Board of Student Conduct] or if they would like an administrator to determine the outcome. If a student doesn’t return their choice of action, they’re found responsible by default,” Lamarre explained.

A student can still have a hearing if he or she claims responsible in order to determine the sanctions imposed, she said. A student can furthermore file an appeal with the Board of Appeals if he or she believes the sanctions unfitting, Paternostro said.

Tuesday’s hearing concerned the ‘alleged incident.’ Cohen wrote, “The Board dismissed the charges and Mamoon was found not responsible.”

Darwish is still suspended, said Cohen. “We will be working diligently in the next week to get Mamoon back on campus,” she added.

The Board of Appeal’s dismissal of the first charge throws Darwish’s suspension into question, said Paternostro. When his case was heard for the first time, with both charges as part of the same hearing, Darwish was given probation for each offense, explained Paternostro. “Double probation equals suspension,” he said.

“The way he’s been suspended is not valid because it’s based off double probation,” Paternostro stated.

Lamarre explained, “physical altercations or assaults on most campuses, including this one, result in some type of suspension.”

The Board of Appeals will meet today to discuss Darwish’s appeal for the fight case before him, Cohen explained. “If they decided that Mamoon’s rights were violated, that there is new evidence, that there was procedural error or that fraud occurred during the disciplinary process, the Board will grant Mamoon a new hearing and the fight case will be reheard,” wrote Cohen in her e-mail.

She continued, “a new hearing can be granted for the fight case only if the Board of Appeals believes that the four criteria above have been violated. If the Board decides to grant Mamoon a new hearing, it is up to [Assistant Director of Student Life] Maggie Balch and the Office of Student Life to schedule a new hearing.”

Darwish commented, “hopefully the favorable outcome [of the first appeal] will carry over to my next appeal and find that [Director of Student Development and Conduct Erika Lamarre used old, non-related charges to greatly manipulate USBC and ultimately worsen my case on faulty allegations.”

In recent weeks, students have expressed concern over the fairness of Darwish’s hearing and appeals process. Darwish himself alleged that he was denied due process in a Facebook note. Students organized a demonstration Thursday protesting Darwish’s treatment along with other grievances.

“This process is fair,” said Lamarre, “if anything, we err on the side of the accused student.”

“So many of the details of the process or the incident itself,” as described on Facebook, student blogs, and in the student media, are “inaccurate or outright false,” said Lamarre, “it’s difficult to see because I can’t correct it.”