Phi Beta Cons

Legal Impediments to Reviewing and Expelling Cho?

…perhaps not, despite the federal privacy and antidiscrimination laws that restrict how universities can handle cases of mentally ill students.
A member of the American Association to University Professors (whom I will leave unidentified) has sent the following email to his or her fellow AAUP members (which was then forwarded to me). The writer begins by noting that one professor commented that “it is chilling to see how little could be done in the Virginia Tech case. Faculty and campus police did what they legally could, but were in fact thwarted by the law.” The writer goes on to raise some important questions, heretofore un-asked as far as I know:

But, are we so sure that laws prevented the VA Tech community from doing anything about the future killer in their midst?  Who is saying that the laws prevented them?  Take a look at the Va Tech Student Handbook. Clearly [shooter Cho’s conduct prior to the massacre]–frightening the other students and affecting their learning environment, as well as sexually harassing two other students–was a violation of the VT Honor Code of Conduct…here I paste a couple of sections, some…in boldface.  Note, too, that a hearing can result in EXPULSION.  Perhaps the question is why this student’s problematic conduct in at least two or three instances was not sent to be reviewed by the board [identified below], and why he was not considered for either suspension or expulsion.  Many questions remain, of course, but we might keep in mind that universities do tend to reserve some rights to suspend and expel students from the university under certain circumstances.
 from the Virginia Tech Student Handbook:
6. Unprofessional or Unethical Behavior is defined as behavior on or off the VCOM community campus that would or could cause a loss of respect or confidence in the offending student or in the VCOM community by the public, faculty, staff, colleagues, or the-community-at-large.  Suspected violations in this category are referred, at the Dean’s discretion, either to the Professional and Ethical Standards Board (PSEB) or to the Honor Code Committee.  If agreeable to the Dean, a student may request to waive a hearing by the PSEB or Honor Code Council for suspected violations in this category and have his/her case heard by the Dean only.  In such cases,the Dean must agree to hearing the case, must accept the student’s waiving of a hearing and the Dean’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.  Unprofessional or unethical behavior may include but is not limited to the following:

a.Entering or using the facilities of the VCOM community without appropriate authorization or

during inappropriate times.

b.Knowingly and purposely disrupting teaching, research, administrative, or student functions of

the VCOM community.c.Abusive or disrespectful conduct toward members of the faculty, administrative or professional staff, employees, students, patients, or visitors of the VCOM community.

d.Failure to appear before the Honor Code Committee when called to appear, or failure to

answer fully and truthfully during any such appearances.

e.Disclosure of privileged information from campus activities or patient care.

f. Improper relationships or activities involving persons entrusted to a student as part of

educational requirements, which extend beyond those educational requirements. Entrusted

persons may include but are not limited to the following: patients or other students under


Violations of the VCOM Honor Code

Violations of the VCOM Honor Code may result in sanctions. Sanctions may include but are not limited to the following: verbal reprimand, service hours, grade changes, permanent notation in a student’s official academic record, suspension, or expulsion. Any recommendation of suspension or expulsion must be elevated to the Professional and Ethical Standards Board (PSEB). The dean may also immediately elevate any severe suspected violation of the VCOM Honor Code to the PESB at any time. Specific practices and policies relating to suspected violations and associated sanctions may be found in the Constitution of the Honor Code Committee online at or by contacting

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