Monday, November 1, 2010

UNH Student Challenges Eviction

I just came across this Union Leader article (through a "UNH" Google news search. I wouldn't actually check their website.) The article is about Miranda Silverman, a 19-year-old UNH student who is being evicted from her Gables apartment for hosting a party with alcohol. I do not know this student or any of her roommates, but I would like to share my thoughts on this, and I hope to hear your thoughts about it. The article states that "No one living in Silverman's sixth-floor apartment was old enough to drink, yet the party of 20 to 30 students included a 'significant quantity' of alcohol and music so loud that a dorm manager could hear it blaring in his first-floor apartment." In the UNH housing agreement that residents must sign it clearly states that you cannot have alcohol in your room if you or none of your roommates are 21. It also says that noise must be kept at a reasonable level, even before quiet hours begin. In the Gables, you may not have more than 13 people in your apartment (unless you register the event, which means you can have 20-24 depending on your apartment size... but who actually registers their events?)

The actual UNH Room and Board Agreement reads: (I bolded those that directly apply to this case).

Alcohol. All students are subject to the University Rights and Rules governing the use of alcohol, as well as federal, state, and local laws of alcohol use to include the Open Container Ordinance of Durham, NH. Entryways, hallways, and lounges are common areas, and consumption of alcohol is prohibited in these areas (including by those of legal drinking age). Group sources such as kegs of beer, beer balls, and alcoholic punches are prohibited in University housing.
a) Only students of legal drinking age (21 years or older) may consume alcohol in their own room or in the room of another student who is at least 21 years old.
b) A legal age drinker may have just one open alcohol container at a time for personal consumption.
c) Alcohol is not permitted in any of the common or public areas of the residence halls or apartment buildings.
d) Possession or consumption of alcohol is permitted only in rooms where at least one of the assigned residents is at least 21 years old.
e) All common sources of alcohol, including but not limited to kegs, punch bowls, beer balls, or excessive amounts of alcohol in bottles or cases, are strictly prohibited.
f) Providing underage people with alcohol is illegal and strictly prohibited.
g) Any person who is under the influence of alcohol and whose behavior leads to personal injury or illness may be considered in violation of the alcohol policy.
h) Having a gathering in a residence room, suite or apartment that involves illegal consumption of alcohol will likely lead to eviction upon a first offense. A gathering is defined as more people in the room/suite/apartment than just the people who are assigned to that room/suite/apartment.


Evictions. A housing eviction requires a resident to move out of the residence hall/apartment system within 48 hours after the University judicial process is completed. Residents evicted or suspended for reasons of conduct are financially responsible for that semesters rent. It is important to understand that eviction can happen for a first offense. Incidents that may result in eviction from the residence hall/apartment system include, but are not limited to:
  • Hosting a gathering in student rooms, student suites or student apartments that involves illegal alcohol possession or use (Others offenses omitted by me.)
Now in this case, Silverman was given "only 5 days leave," which is clearly longer than the 48 hour rule stated above. So obviously that complaint is not a very good one. I think we can all agree that Silverman clearly violated the Room and Board Agreement and therefore UNH has the right to evict her. I mean rules are rules and when you sign that agreement you are agreeing to those consequences.

Here is where the situation gets a little fuzzy.

Silverman claims she was told by a UNH provided legal adviser that her best chance would be to come clean about everything. So, she admitted those violations and was still evicted. Now her family has hired a lawyer and claimed that UNH did not let her honor the 5th Amendment (the right to remain silent).

Here are a few questions that must be addressed: Do students actually have the right to remain silent? (As far as I know the 5th Amendment applies to "criminal" cases. This is not a criminal case.) Does that matter? Did UNH actually force her to speak, or did they just advise her to?

To be clear the Fifth Amendment reads: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."


"Nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." This is not a criminal case, so the 5th Amendment may not technically apply. The second question: Did UNH actually force her to speak? I don't think so and it doesn't say that anywhere in the article. It simply says that UNH's advisor was "silent about [Silverman]'s Fifth Amendment right to stay silent."

Here is what I think: Whether or not she spoke, she was going to be evicted. UNH is more lenient when you admit to your actions (she was caught red handed!) and they still decided to evict her. I live in the Gables and at our first floor meeting our CA straight up said that UNH is much more likely to evict you after one offense, and hosting a party with illegal alcohol use (under 21) is almost a guaranteed eviction now. Now, you can argue whether or not UNH's policies are fair, but in all honesty, rules are rules. If you break them prepare to face the consequences.

Stay classy, not UMassy.

PS/Edit:
Even if the 5th Amendment does apply, maybe she should have known about that right on her own. (Not that it would have mattered, she still was going to be evicted. She didn't incriminate herself by speaking, she incriminated herself by hosting a party with a bunch of underaged college students!) This goes to show how many college students have no idea about their basic rights. I mean if Christine O'Donnell doesn't know the interpretations of the First Amendment, what do college students know? Then again, very few of you probably know who Christine O'Donnell is and that terrifies me. Think about this for a second: Can you name the five basic freedoms of the First Amendment? Most Americans can't. Maybe it's time you brush up on that before it's too late.

22 comments:

  1. I think it is ridiculous that this girl thinks she will be able to get out of the ruling. You break the rules, you have to deal with the consequences.

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  2. Mommy and Daddy can't do everything for you stupid brat. You're not 21. You're not legal, end of story. You broke the rules, you lose. so showwwy.

    just get better at not getting caught.

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  3. This case is not about drinking and noise. This is about UNH’s violation of its student’s rights. The Office of Conduct and Mediation requires charged students to contact an adviser assigned by UNH, to help the student prepare a defense. In this case the adviser was there solely to insure an easy eviction based exclusively on the adviser's advice to the student.

    In this proceeding, a student has the right to remain silent and the burden of proof on each charge rests on the institution. Here, the university introduced no evidence, witnesses, and did not establish any case against the student. The stated process which was meant to protect the student’s rights, was not followed. The system was made a mockery, and it violated the rights of one UNH student in the name of expediency. In so doing, it made the entire institution suspect. When one student’s procedural due process rights are violated, the entire student body’s rights are in jeopardy, because that institution can’t be trusted.

    If we expect students to believe in and trust our institutions they need to feel, like the rest of us, that they are treated fairly. It doesn’t matter what the charge is. If one student’s rights have been violated, any student’s rights can be violated. It is very basic, and it goes to the core of our American values.

    Whoever looks at this as a kid who has been caught partying and playing music too loud just doesn’t get the severity of this violation or is incapable of grasping the situation.

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  4. BOOM ROASTED

    CIVIL NOT LEGAL

    DUMB BITCH!

    Maybe you shouldn't have gotten caught! have fun living above wildcat pizaaaaaaa

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  5. This situation definitely serves as a good example of how little students know about their rights, and I agree with the point being defended. But I just have to throw out there that this girl, who I don't know either, probably doesn't want this publicized any more than it already has been..especially when this article contains her name. I am fairly certain that a very small proportion of the student body reads the Union Leader, but a much higher proportion of students read this blog. The article would've been just as effective without naming names. As a blogger writing about student life here, you certainly have every right to comment on this kind of situation..but just saying..if it were me, I wouldn't want my name thrown in there.

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  6. She got caught. Boo hoo. Stop thinking you're entitled to getting out of this. You're darn lucky you weren't arrested for having so many underage drinkers in your comfy little apartment.

    Robert- Do you know how conduct is handled at UNH? If an RA or CA catches a housing violation, they have to fill out a conduct sheet. This lists what room was involved, any residents of the room that were present, as well as the other people who were present. That means witnesses. This conduct report also includes a detailed account of what was going on. They are very careful to say if folks were honest and cooperative. The student is presented with this report in full and reviews it and signs, stating that it is truthful. There's nothing wrong with the way UNH handles conduct.

    She needs to own up and say she screwed up. Her parents are being ridiculous.

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  7. when was the last time you heard a girl hosting a party........really? you cant crash other people's party. thats sad

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  8. Anonymous from 9:42 - when I first wrote this I left her name out, but then I figured most people would refer to the UL article to see who she was anyways... If she was to ask I'd take the name down, but seeing as it has also been covered by Fosters I didn't see it being a problem.

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  9. For those of you that think there is nothing wrong with the way UNH handles conduct violations, YOU ARE HIGH! The fact of the matter is Res Life and it's judicial proceedings rely on preponderance of evidence rather than proving something beyond a reasonable doubt. Students are guilty until proven innocent, and that is just plain wrong. This case won't hold up in court because the whole 5th amendment argument is retarded, but it does bring a valuable conversation to light regarding the way UNH deals with conduct issues.

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  10. Let's be honest, it's not hard to not get caught with alcohol. However, if you're stupid enough to have that many underage drinkers there, you deserve to be evicted. Are her parents gonna hire a lawyer when she gets fired from a job? So ridiculous.

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  11. Given the responses on the past 2 articles it seems the direction this blog should take is pretty clear...

    ...that being said, a stoopid drunken story now and again wouldn't hurt...

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  12. #3 on the Student Code of Conduct:

    3. The University Conduct System is an administrative process. It is not a criminal law process, nor is it intended to resemble one. The University Conduct System is not required to observe formal rules of evidence and may exclude unduly repetitious or immaterial information.

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  13. I agree with UNH Hi-Lites! The issue here is not just the way that UNH deals with conduct issues, but also the value that they place on their students and the local Durham, NH community.

    Instead of throwing the book at this young lady for her first offense, why not enlist her support as an advocate for the administration and the town of Durham. Apply her experience and the lessons learned in a proactive manner to educate and help other young adults before they develop drinking and related conduct issues.

    I think that the University of New Hampshire should take a chance by taking a positive step forward and addressing these issues through education of the student body instead of sweeping it under the rug with various punishments.

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  14. Really appreciating the comments everyone. It feels great to be generating a discussion.

    -Anonymous from 10:51 - I agree, but it's funny you say that, I have a few in store that will come up soon! Keep reading!

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  15. I think the UNH housing agreement is a root cause of many problems in Durham.

    -Students are pissed b/c they think the rules are not fair, not reasonable, and punishments are too severe.

    -"Rowdy" students that get kicked out of housing, move off campus to the Durham community.

    -Students that dont want to live under unh housing rules also move off campus into Durham.

    -Townies are pissed that there are so many messy, noisy, drunk, and students in their neighborhoods.

    I think town and gown relations would be improved if more students lived on campus.

    I also think students would be happier because they aren't being arrested or fined when on/off campus.

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  16. Right, campbell, people would be much happier if they could break the rules and not get punished for it. Actions shouldn't haven't consequences! Anarchy now!

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  17. Alternatively, instead of just kicking the "rowdy" students out of housing, they could just expel them altogether. Then the students would have no reason to stay in town.

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  18. previous comment:
    Instead of throwing the book at this young lady for her first offense, why not enlist her support as an advocate for the administration and the town of Durham. Apply her experience and the lessons learned in a proactive manner to educate and help other young adults before they develop drinking and related conduct issues.

    that would mean having every student who gets caught 'educate others', meaning, 100+ students a year, probably way more- go unpunished? students get in trouble for wayyy less then what this girl and her friends did, and they still get punished/evicted/fined. We all go through the same thing, students get pissed, and move on with their lives.

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  19. Why? Because they made a mistake they should be denied their education? Great reasoning there. Glad you could add to this discussion.

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  20. I agree with TK. Google UNH drinking, or UNH conduct issues and the number of hits will clearly demonstrate that anonymous 11:12 is speaking without any factual basis.

    The numbers don't lie and the University of New Hampshire has serious alcohol and other disciplinary problems that they seem to just ignore. Their attitude and their record clearly represents a policy of "terminate...instead of educate"

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  21. The rules are the rules. The fact is that there are incident reports provided with lots of evidence and she was given all the correct judicial proceedings by the conduct office. The student advisor is a volunteer who is there to help and answer questions they are in no way a lawyer and are more there as a support system. The fact that she's trying to blame this on the student advisor is bullshit because the advisor said to tell the truth which is what you should do since you sign an honesty oath going into any hearing. She's just a whiny brat who got caught, admitted to it, went through an appeal process and was denied and still won't give it up. You screwed up and you should deal with the consequences just like every other student evicted from housing.

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