U code used in player’s case

by Rebecca Bentz

A former University student who pleaded guilty to an armed robbery in March became the first student suspended under the University’s recently amended Student Conduct Code.

University President Bob Bruininks suspended former senior and football player Robert McField Wednesday after learning of his felony conviction and some on-campus breaches of the code, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said.

The Board of Regents expanded the code’s jurisdiction in December to include off-campus activities. The code allows the University president or a delegate to suspend a student or student group whose actions are allegedly criminal, self-injurious or threatening to others.

The University does not automatically suspend students or groups who might have violated the code, Rinehart said. The board first discusses the situation with the student or group. Depending on its findings, the board may take further action such as a written warning, restitution or suspension.

McField pleaded guilty in March to three felony counts of armed robbery in St. Louis, according to University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, stemming from the 2005 robberies of two St. Louis eateries.

The University was unaware of the felony charges facing McField, Rinehart said. After prosecutors notified them, University officials found McField had engaged in some “behaviors” regulated by the code, which the University declined to specifically name. Taking his felony charge into account, the University suspended him under the code.

He was also suspended from the University football team in early October 2006 and dismissed last month following his guilty plea, Rotenberg said.

McField did not return repeated requests for comment left on his phone and with friends. He withdrew from the University following his suspension, Rinehart said.

The code change to include off-campus activities was necessary, said Minnesota Student Association President Max Page.

“Students should conduct themselves professionally both on and off campus,” he said. “How you conduct yourself is representative of the University as a whole, the state and the nation.”

Regents amended the jurisdiction of the code mainly for cases of sexual assault, Page said.

In many sexual assault cases, the victim and alleged assailant know each other, he said. The code’s expanded jurisdiction is meant to prevent a victim from having to attend a class or live in the same residence hall with his or her assailant.

“Situations like that could impede the learning process,” Page said. “The regents are trying to make the most positive education experience for everyone.”

While the code’s changes received nearly unanimous MSA support, other students have concerns that students’ due process rights might be violated, Page said.

“There have been some concerns about students being ‘guilty until proven innocent,’ ” he said.

Rotenberg said that isn’t the case. The University’s standards aren’t limited to criminal law, he said.

“The University is sensitive to due process rights that all students have, including those who may be suspended for serious off-campus misconduct allegations,” he said. “Those students who are suspended based on allegations of that kind do have a right to a hearing on the suspension.”