A nonacademic misconduct hearing committee found Alec Cook responsible for violating the University of Wisconsin’s student conduct policies as they relate to violent crimes.
In an email to The Badger Herald, UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone said the committee upheld the recommendation of expulsion from the university. Either party may appeal to UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank by March 24.
Cook’s attorneys, Christopher Van Wagner and Jessa Nicholson called this decision “premature” in an email to The Badger Herald, and added they are “assuredly appealing” to the chancellor as the disciplinary process envisions.
The university’s decision to reveal their ruling before the appeal process is a violation of Cook’s educational privacy rights, Van Wagner said.
Van Wagner said the decision was “split” 2-1 and clearly shows the case is not a strong criminal case if this “easier” disciplinary decision was split.
No complaining witness was allowed or required to testify, Van Wagner said, so he and Nicholson were not allowed to test the truth of the complainant’s allegations.
The university issued an emergency suspension for Cook last October because of the severity of the allegations and potential impact on the campus community, Dean of Students Lori Berquam said in a statement.
Due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, McGlone said the institution is allowed to share student disciplinary results without a student’s consent when the student is an alleged perpetrator of a violent crime and is found responsible for violating the institution’s policies.
The disclosure, however, is only limited to the student’s name, violation and sanction.
Weeks prior to the hearing, Van Wagner said he and Nicholson requested and were “promised” they would be given the chance to ask the committee about their own personal prior knowledge of the case. This request was made to determine if there were any biases or prejudgment from social media “inaccuracies.”
Van Wagner pointed to the “Alec Cook alert” made after Cook made bail as one example of the “unfair denials” of due process.
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When Cook’s attorneys began to question the committee, however, they were told that line of questioning would not be permitted.
“People get more due process when the state wants to take away their driver’s license than when [UW] wants to strip you of your entire educational career,” Van Wagner said.
Cook currently faces 21 counts of felony and misdemeanor criminal charges ranging from second-degree sexual assault to false imprisonment. He is due in court for a pretrial hearing March 31.
March 14, 8:08 p.m: This post has been updated to include statements from Christopher Van Wagner, Cook’s attorney.