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May 31 2019

Columbia University rejects student’s challenge to disciplinary process

A former Columbia University student who filed several legal challenges against the university’s disciplinary hearing process failed to convince a New York State appeals court to rule in his favor. The appellate panel sided with Columbia, stating that the university’s decision to uphold a disciplinary hearing committee’s semester-long suspension of the student was justified.

The case involved Sai Bondalapati, a former biophysics student who was accused of forging a physiology exam booklet as a sophomore. He appeared at a disciplinary hearing overseen by two members of a student conduct committee where he received a punishment for academic dishonesty.

In 2016, Bondalapati filed a petition in Manhattan Supreme Court claiming that Columbia University allegedly did not allow him to have a lawyer or other representative in attendance at his disciplinary hearing or to submit live witness testimony. He petitioned to annul the university’s decision to uphold his suspension.

The appellate panel affirmed the Supreme Court’s denial of the petition. It unanimously rejected a variety of legal challenges brought by Bondalapati, including arguments about the adequacy of the university’s record, a “due process” challenge and claims that the suspension was “shocking or disproportionate.” The court said Columbia’s decision to reject Bondalapati’s justification for his actions of marking up the booklet in a specific way was “rationally based and not arbitrary and capricious.”

If you are facing a disciplinary inquiry, do not try to handle it on your own. Contact Brill Legal Group for experienced representation and guidance throughout the process. Our goal is to protect your professional future and livelihood.