Brown University on Full Disclosure (or Lack Thereof)
April 27, 2011
Say you're accused of a heinous crime. If one of the main witnesses against you—in a campus disciplinary matter with serious repercussions for your academic career as well as the rest of your life—just happened to have your accuser's father as a career mentor, would you think that was relevant to disclose in a hearing or trial? Yeah, me too. But Brown University doesn't really care. A very interesting article in today's Brown Daily Herald explores the predicament of a student who was in just this position and is now suing Brown:
[The accused student's residential counselor's] nondisclosure of a potential source of bias does not violate any University rules governing disciplinary procedures. "There are no specific rules regarding disclosing relationships," wrote Jonah Allen Ward, senior associate dean of student life, in an email to The Herald, though he added that witnesses are expected to be truthful in their accounts.
Seems like a pretty big oversight, regardless of the offense, doesn't it? The fact that someone might stand to gain from giving a certain kind of testimony does not necessarily mean that the person will be untruthful, but it's highly relevant to the fact-finder when deciding how much weight and credibility to assign to witnesses. For the sake of its students, let's hope Brown figures that out sooner rather than later.
Check out the article in full—also, as full disclosure, both Azhar and I are quoted in it.