Murmurs around the Interwebz in the past few days have been whispering that a student at Arizona State had been stripped of her $32,000 scholarship and possibly expelled for flashing her ASU student ID in an adult film in which she appeared.
As becomes unsurprising when the likes of 4chan users are involved, the student was not actually expelled and her scholarship has not been revoked as a result of her appearance in the film. According to the Phoenix New Times, the letter posted by several gossip websites calling for the cancellation of student Elizabeth Hawkinson’s scholarship was probably not an legitimate epistolary effort against Ms. Hawkenson and has not been received or considered by the Arizona Board of Regents. It was probably the work the anthropological subgroup know was 4chan users (Really, though: Do the ends justify the memes?)
We were skeptical about this story, and delayed posting until some source more reputable than The Dirty reported on Ms. Hawkenson’s case. But we couldn’t be immedietly sure if this was a set-up: Under the Student Code of Conduct, a student probably could be stripped of his or her scholarship and expelled for an incident like this. Though not as scandalous as originally indicated, this incident should be illuminating for students in regards to the power of the Student Code of Conduct and the ability granted to university leaders to wield that power to potentially exaggerated affect.
The now-debunked letter was crafted to appear as though it was from an anonymous ASU alum calling for the student’s scholarship to be revoked on the grounds that the student’s choice to appear on film and identify herself as an ASU student “clearly violates the ASU Student Code of Conduct.” We can be thankful not even an ASU alum would draft a letter like this and Ms. Hawkenson has not suffered disciplinary action undue to her noncrime. But just for the sake of consideration, this is an illuminating exercise in what if? If we imagine for a moment that this letter had been real, and university had decided to follow the action it advocated and to expel Ms. Hawkenson for this vague alleged Code violation: Can they do that? Yes. Yes they can.
The scope granted to the administrators at the three Arizona universities by the Student Code of Conduct is both undefined and unmitigated. Ms. Hawkenson did not violate any explicit Code of Conduct clause; The clause most directly relevant to this case might be the following, which appears in the section outlining “prohibited conduct”:
Engaging in any illegal sexual offense, including but not limited to, sexual
assault, public sexual indecency, or indecent exposure.
The student in question is a legal, consenting adult who has neither committed nor been charged with any “illegal sexual offense.” But it hardly matters of what the student is guilty, for Code of Conduct enforcement is at the absolute discretion of university officials:
1. The Dean of Students may impose one or more of the following sanctions for any violation of the Student Code of Conduct:
a) Expulsion: Permanent separation of the student from the university. An indication of expulsion may appear on the student’s transcript. The expelled student will not participate in any university-sponsored activity and will be barred from university property. An expelled student will be ineligible to attend Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, or the University of Arizona or any other university campus or division governed by ABOR (Emphasis mine)
Ms. Hawkenson has not violated an explicit stipulation of the Code of Conduct, but university officials are free to deliver disciplinary action as they see fit regardless of what she has actually done. ASU hasn’t taken any disciplinary action against her — at least, not yet, or not that has been reported by any credible source.
The fact that we could not automatically dismiss an anonymous letter calling for an Arizona university student’s scholarship to be revoked as a result of the student’s legal behavior should be a chilling thought for all students. Though it does not appear ASU will chose to expel Ms. Hawkenson, so drastic an action is, however, granted by this Code.
This is not the first time ASU has rubbed up against the issue of students and pornography: In 2002, ASASU Senator Brian Buck appeared in an adult film:
Buck was the most prominent ASU student in the adult film, “Shane’s World #29: Frat Row Scavenger Hunt 3,” which featured four ASU fraternities that took part in a scavenger hunt with professional porn stars, including sex on a campus lawn…”The actions of the Arizona State University students who participated in — or tolerated — the making of a sexually explicit video in several ASU fraternities constitute behavior that is completely and utterly unacceptable,” Crow said in an August statement.
No reports indicate Ms. Hawkenson’s work took place on ASU property. For his on-campus antics, Buck earned the following:
Buck is now barred from holding any position in any student organization, a ban that effectively forces him out of student government. He is barred from holding any employment position at ASU, or from residing on university-owned property. As if that weren’t enough, Buck has been placed on probation for the rest of his time at ASU; he must compose a twenty-page essay with the pithy title “Reflections on Integrity”; he must perform 100 hours of community service; and he must write four letters of apology. This laundry list of sanctions cannot be appealed. Buck’s lawyer, outraged by the extensive punishments and by the denial of due process, intends to sue ASU for breach of his client’s constitutional rights.
Is President Crow likely to operate on the same metric regarding Ms. Hawkenson? Her story and its still-continuing resolution are as yet very unconfirmed — we know an ASU student appeared in an adult film and identified herself as a student, but not if and when she will receive any disciplinary action for her “crimes.” Perhaps some might consider this spiraling of events tot be a rickroll only the Bedlamites on 4chan could concoct, but the fact remains that fake fate of Ms. Hawkenson is fully allowed in powers of the administrations by the Student Code of Conduct, a document that is very much real.
That this kind of abuse of administrative power is granted by the Code of Conduct deserves scrutiny regardless of whether Ms. Hawkenson is expelled — the Code allows that she could very well have been robbed of her scholarship and status as a student based on alleged Code violations no more concrete than these. We will be eager to hear (not from you, 4chan) whether Ms. Hawkenson does receive disciplinary actions for her indiscretions, as President Crow and his colleagues are very much granted the power to both giveth and unapologetically taketh away. No institution dedicated to higher principles should allow such wanton fickleness by administrators to stand in for the rule of law.