CMU sued by expelled student

Expelled junior civil and environmental engineering major Stephane Batton is suing Carnegie Mellon for violating his civil rights.

Following Batton’s Feb. 4 off-campus fight with another student, the university held a disciplinary committee hearing. Batton claims the hearing violated his civil rights. He is suing to reverse the expulsion.

According to the lawsuit, Batton claims the university violated his rights by forcing him to testify while criminal charges against him were pending, censoring the questions he could ask witnesses, and refusing to provide a transcript of the hearing when he appealed his expulsion.

The suit names the university, Jared Cohon, Michael Murphy, Gina Casalegno, and the University Committee on Discipline as defendants. Cathy Bissoon, U.S. district court judge, will preside over the case; no trial date has been released at this time.

Junior civil and environmental engineering major Elissa Goldner, a friend of Batton, has started a petition to have him reinstated as a student. Goldner declined to comment, pending approval from Batton’s lawyer.

Teresa Thomas, assistant vice president for media relations for the university, said in an email, “Consistent with our practice, we will not comment on the substance of this pending lawsuit. We are confident that the University followed appropriate process throughout the proceedings that are the subject of the complaint, and further that the plaintiff’s rights were not violated in any way.”

Carnegie Mellon’s community standards website does not explicitly address off-campus issues or altercations, nor does it list a strict standard for when a violation of community standards results in expulsion as opposed to some other form of disciplinary action. However, assault is listed as an infraction that will result in a disciplinary hearing.

According to the website, in cases under the University Committee on Discipline, “In the disciplinary process, a student who is charged with a violation has the right to remain silent.”

The website also addresses the question of whether transcripts of a hearing must be provided for an appeal: “The person bringing an appeal may request that the recordings of the hearing be transcribed. In this case, the student will be responsible for the cost of providing a transcription of the recording of the prior proceedings. The transcription is made solely for the use of the person considering the appeal. The transcript will NOT be provided to the students involved.”

Batton had a preliminary hearing on Thursday regarding criminal charges of aggravated assault and related crimes. He was not available for comment.