The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Students’ Rights: A Public Forum on Due Process, Free Speech, and Privacy Rights in Educational Institutions - This Thursday

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College campuses often seem to operate in a different sphere from the rest of society. Especially on an isolated campus like Dartmouth's, students reference the perceived “Dartmouth bubble” that insulates the university community from outside society. Moreover, students at schools like Dartmouth fall under the jurisdiction of private university administrations and are subjected to their rules and regulations. In many cases, this blurs the lines of which constitutional rights are still protected under a public or private university’s authority.

This Thursday, July 17th, at 4:30 pm, in Rocky 003, The Rockefeller Center will host “Students’ Rights: A Public Forum on Due Process, Free Speech, and Privacy Rights in Educational Institutions” featuring panelists D. Chris McLaughlin ’81, Chester County Attorney; George H. Ostler ‘77, DesMeules, Olmstead & Ostler; Leah Plunkett, UNH School of Law; and Judith R. Sizer, Rose, Chinitz & Rose. The panel will focus broadly on student rights, including to what extent certain constitutional rights that apply with respect to government action also apply to private educational institutions. The panel will be followed by a dinner discussion with panelists and student at 5:45 pm in Morrison Commons. Here is the link for students to register for the dinner:

With the backdrop of students’ constitutional rights on college campuses, this panel will address complex issues such as free speech rights in both public and private universities, the balance between due process and the need to aggressively investigate misconduct, and digital privacy. The panel will also discuss the unique interplay between criminal prosecution and private discipline in private educational institutions, and how the constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures applies on private university campuses. These issues are particularly relevant to current students, especially as advances in technology increasingly raise questions about digital privacy. 


D. Chris McLaughlin '81 has over twenty-five years of experience prosecuting and defending criminal cases in the State of New Hampshire. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire School of Law (formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center), McLaughlin began his legal career with the NH Public Defender Program in 1988. He left the public defender program in 1992 and was in private practice until his return to the public defender program in 1996. As a public defender, he worked both as a trial attorney and appellate attorney. In 2006, he began his work as a prosecutor, serving as an assistant county attorney in Cheshire County. In February of 2013, he took over his current position of Cheshire County Attorney.

George Ostler '77 has 30 years experience defending persons accused of crimes. He practices statewide in the state courts of New Hampshire and Vermont as well as in the Federal Courts in Vermont and New Hampshire. Ostler graduated from Dartmouth College in 1977 and Vermont Law School in 1983 (Magna Cum Laude). He was employed by the NH Public Defender Program from 1983 to 1994 and has been a partner in DesMeules, Olrnstead and Ostler since 1994. Ostler is a member of the Vermont Bar Association, New Hampshire Bar Association, Vermont Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the NORML Legal Committee.

Leah A. Plunkett is the Director of Academic Success & Associate Professor of Legal Skills at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. She is also Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, where she works on the Student Privacy Initiative. She was a Climenko Fellow & Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School conducting legal scholarship in the areas of criminal and family law. Plunkett founded the Youth Law Project at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, which handles school discipline, special education, and other matters on behalf of kids and teenagers who are facing criminal charges. She has also been a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, which promotes laws, regulations, and policies that advance economic security for low-income or vulnerable consumers, such as domestic violence survivors.

Judith R. Sizer has practiced as a higher education lawyer for over twenty-five years. Before joining Rose, Chinitz & Rose, she served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. She has worked in many areas of charities law, including non-profit governance, Board support, advisory boards, fundraising and development, compliance, conflicts, contract negotiation, museum collections, executive compensation, policy work, non-profit tax, and trust and estate administration.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences