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Some people believe that the American system of justice is one that responds to each individual claimant, giving each the time and attention that he or she deserves. Due process is really about the dignity of the human person: everyone needs to be heard. On the other hand, others believe that truisms about due process are a patronizing anachronism. We have recognized that resources constitute a real limit on aspirations and are moving to use the resources that we have well as opposed to squandering those resources blindly. Should college disciplinary actions be required to meet due process requirements?

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The short answer to the question of whether college disciplinary actions should be or are required to meet due process restrictions is yes. College students are still protected by their fifth amendment rights to due process before the law, even when they go to school. However, there is a greater complexity to the answer that we need to explore.

Let's begin by talking about due process. This is usually defined as the procedures authorities follow to make sure that people who are accused of some crime or misdeed are treated fairly. This can include a timely hearing or trial, proper procedures of interview and evidence, and the privilege of the accused to answer the charges against him or her.

The due-process restriction applies especially to agents of the government, and over the years, courts have found that public universities and colleges can be regarded as government agents and are, therefore, bound by the due-process restriction. Therefore, students against whom the school takes disciplinary action must be given due process in some fashion.

What this looks like varies, but at the least, students who are expelled or suspended must receive notice and a chance to respond. Other court proceedings have found that students must have access to the evidence against them and be able to confront their accusers and any witnesses against them.

Now in a private college or university, things are a little different, for these schools are not government agents and therefore are not bound by due process in the same way. Rather, courts have found that these schools are bound by the disciplinary procedures laid out in the school's handbook, which can form a kind of contract between the school and the student. The handbook, ideally, should contain a form of due process for students accused of some misdeed.

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