Editorial: About time for due process


Emmanuel Huybrechts

Golden Lady Justice, Bruges, Belgium. Photo taken on Mar. 3, 2008 courtesy of Emmanuel Huybrechts. CC BY 2.0

Editorial Board

An addition to the educational code will give California community college faculty a clearly established due process procedure for the first time in state history.

Assembly Bill 1651, which came into law Oct. 13, will modify existing due process rights for community college faculty members by requiring administrators to provide faculty members the reason for their administrative leave.

“Until now, community college faculty would be disciplined by their respective districts without any notification of the charges against them or the reason for the disciplinary action,” said Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, who sponsored the bill.

The bill also urges the California Community College Chancellor’s office to resolve investigations within 90 days to avoid faculty members being left on involuntary paid leave as a form of punishment.

In a time when national turmoil over social and political issues is at its highest since the Vietnam War, this kind of clarification in the law, although limited to California community colleges, helps bring people together by eliminating grey zones in the law that can be exploited for political reasons.

The California Community College Independents, a lobbying group representing faculty unions, co-sponsored the bill with Reyes. Its president, Jeffrey Michels, wrote via email that the bill establishes for the first time in California law a definition for involuntary paid administrative leave and establishes some due process rights for faculty who are placed on this sort of leave.

According to Michels, districts in the past have claimed faculty are not being disciplined because they were still being paid while placed on leave. This claim allowed the district to skirt any rights to due process.

For example, In October 2009 three professors at Southwestern College, in Chula Vista, were placed on immediate administrative leave when administrators claimed the professors had incited protestors to leave a free speech area on campus and had physically confronted police. While the professors were reinstated two days later the reaction by administration was unjust and violated their due process rights.

The right to due process is always important but especially during times like this, where people are more divided and the fear of abuse of power is heightened, it is important to have defined laws everyone clearly understands.

More importantly, having faith in the judicial process and knowing the rights to a fair hearing and appeal are respected in the utmost, gives citizens faith in these institutions.

Vague wording in the law allows for uncertainty and abuse. Clear wording in laws like AB 1651, guarantee stronger protection for citizens by providing clarity when institutions apply the law.

~ Fall 2017 Editorial Board