Student files grievance after being cleared of wrongdoing

Two months after a campus hearing panel cleared him of wrongdoing, a UC Berkeley graduate student who faced student conduct charges for his involvement in the November 2009 occupation of Wheeler Hall filed a formal grievance last week alleging discrimination on the basis of political belief and unfair application of campus policies.

The grievance, which was filed on June 17 by Aakash Desai, alleges that at his formal hearing on April 18, the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards presented “fraudulent evidence” that adversely impacted his status as a student.

The grievance also seeks compensation for the time Desai spent dealing with the matter and calls for disciplinary action to be taken against two administrators involved in his conduct proceedings.

“The entire ordeal caused enormous stress for over a year, required dozens of hours of preparation time, and necessitated Mr. Desai’s presence during approximately 8 hours of grueling formal hearings,” the grievance states.

According to the campus Student Grievance Procedure, the campus is “committed to a policy against legally impermissible, arbitrary, or unreasonable discriminatory practices.”

The grievance raises concerns about testimony given by UCPD Cpl. Timothy Zuniga, who was called as a witness at Desai’s formal hearing on April 18.

At the hearing, Desai’s advisor, Thomas Frampton, a UC Berkeley School of Law student and member of the Campus Rights Project, showed that various aspects in the police reports written by Zuniga and another officer at the protest were identical, alleging that Zuniga copied his police report from his partner and challenging the credibility of the testimony.

However, at the hearing, Zuniga maintained that he had written his own report.

“For the past two months, we’ve tried tirelessly to start a dialogue with Student Conduct and the Vice Chancellor (Harry Le Grande) about why they would use such patently false testimony … E-mail after e-mail was met with silence,” Frampton said in an email. “We’re filing this (complaint) now because we want to hold them accountable.”

According to UCPD spokesperson Lt. Alex Yao, “UCPD reviewed the allegation and found no wrong-doing regarding Officer Zuniga’s report.”

In addition, the grievance states that the time spent dealing with student conduct prevented Desai from studying and preparing final papers for some of his classes, resulting in his grades suffering.

The grievance states that in order to remedy the harm done to Desai, he is seeking monetary compensation for time spent addressing the conduct proceedings based on the rate he was earning as a graduate student instructor at the time of his hearing.

Christina Gonzales, the associate dean of students, was not able to address the grievance specifically due to the private nature of student conduct proceedings. However, speaking generally, she said that campus administrators and the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards have been working to address issues brought up in grievances.

“I’m not really sure what people want at this point,” Gonzales said. “We’ve had the task force to revise the Code of Student Conduct, we’ve started making changes at the Center (for Conduct and Community Standards). Today I just finished with the staff going through another training. Throughout the conduct proceedings, we’ve listened. We’ve heard what the students were saying, and we’re trying to be as proactive as possible to make changes.”

Aaida Samad is an assistant news editor.