A Boulder County district judge has ordered University of Colorado officials to reinstate a student who was expelled last year after staffers in the university’s financial affairs office claimed he had created a “hostile and threatening environment.”
District Court Judge Daniel C. Hale ordered university officials Dec. 29 to re-admit undergraduate student Carlos Martinez after he found that university judicial officials had violated Martinez’ due process rights by refusing to follow the school’s own policies and procedures.
“The transcripts and tape recordings of Carlos Martinez’ alleged sins reveal an astonishing gap between his words and the university’s account of and response to those words,” said Alan C. Kors, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based student advocacy group that documents university student rights abuses.
“Mr. Martinez was denied even the most fundamental fairness throughout his ordeal, which happens to students across this land,” Kors said.
According to Thor L. Halvorssen, executive director for the foundation, Martinez’ trouble with university officials began in the fall of 1999.
On Dec. 13, 1999, Martinez was suspended by Andrea Goldblum, head of the university’s Judicial Affairs Office, after allegedly having received complaints from University Writing Program staffer Deborah Viles that Martinez’ tone of voice made her fear for her safety during “numerous” telephone calls made the previous September.
A University of Colorado Police Department report said Viles complained of “harassing phone calls” made by Martinez over a conflict regarding an exemption exam.
The University Writing Program proctored an exemption exam in September, the police report stated, noting that Viles said that “one of the students” — later found to be Martinez — “did not receive a grade that would allow an exemption.”
The report said Martinez called the writing program office “several times,” requesting a review of the exam with department staff. Viles, the report said, told Martinez that was not possible and “would not occur,” and that Martinez supposedly “signed a waiver to this fact.”
Eventually, Martinez was referred to another staff member, Paul Levitt.
Police Officer Michael Lowry, the officer who took Viles’ complaint, said in his report that “Deborah told me that Carlos never threatened her.” Instead, “his tone of voice was such that she did fear for her safety, should he come to her office” personally, the report said.
“Mr. Martinez called and asked if Paul had left some papers, and Deborah told him no,” said the report. “She added that he had been out of town, and Mr. Martinez asked where. Deborah told him that it was none of his business and Deborah said he ‘snapped.'”
In his report, Lowry wrote that Viles “told me that [Martinez’] tone of voice has caused her to warn other employees in the building not to speak to Carlos alone, out of concern for their safety.”
But according to a transcript of the call, Halvorssen said, “there is nothing indicating anger or hostility” on the part of Martinez to Viles or any staff member at the college.
Not only that, Halvorssen said, he found it odd that the call so frightening to Viles was placed in September, but the police report was not made until Feb. 9, 2000 — five months later.
Nevertheless, in mid-December of 1999, Goldblum suspended Martinez, leading him to appeal her ruling to the full Judicial Affairs Hearing Board.
In February, the board reduced his punishment to mere probation and ordered him to write a letter of apology as well as attend an “anger management seminar,” which was not offered on campus.
After the full board’s decision, Goldblum then arbitrarily “added imminent deadlines of one week,” Halvorssen said, making it virtually impossible for Martinez to complete his anger management course requirement.
Martinez then contacted Goldblum and informed her that he would not comply with her recommendations, believing them to be harsh, capricious and unreasonable. Goldblum then decided on her own, without a hearing of the full board, to expel Martinez.
WorldNetDaily contacted Goldblum’s office but received no reply to inquiries.
Martinez then requested and received a preliminary injunction of Goldblum’s decision in Hale’s court. During those hearings, Goldblum told the court she was “so afraid of Martinez” that Hale ordered no contact between them. Then, in June 2000, in a final hearing, Hale ordered the university to void Martinez’ expulsion.
Within a few weeks, Halvorssen said, Goldblum recontacted Hale’s court and asked the judge to vacate the restriction on contact with Martinez “so she could preside over a new administrative hearing” involving Martinez.
At that point, the foundation became involved at Martinez’ request. The organization said it threatened to expose Goldblum for allegedly denying Martinez a fair hearing because she was — after being ruled against by Hale’s court – possibly seeking to exact some revenge on Martinez with another arbitrary ruling.
Instead, Halvorssen said, she appointed “a close colleague” to lead the next administrative hearing. At that hearing, the school reinstated Martinez’ penalty of expulsion, so he took his case back to Hale’s court.
In his final ruling ordering the university to reinstate Martinez for the second time, Hale wrote that the actions by Goldblum and her colleagues were “an abuse of discretion … and not supported by any competent evidence.”
“It is an unbelievable leap from the punishment of writing a letter of apology to expulsion,” Hale wrote, noting “the troublesome role Goldblum played in disciplining Martinez from the outset.”
“A disciplinary system must have the appearance of impartiality and fairness, neither of which were apparent in this case,” Hale wrote. “There is simply no competent evidence in the record to support the University’s decision.
“The decision was so devoid of evidentiary support that it can only be explained as an arbitrary and capricious exercise of authority,” he said.