In her former job as a director of judicial affairs at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Pitzer College’s newly hired dean of students Sandra Vasquez concealed material evidence from a low-income, minority student seeking to defend himself against a suspension levied by school officials in response to unfounded criminal allegations, according to a March 2017 court order and complaint submitted in July.
According to the complaint, to which the Independent has obtained access, during a September 2016 hearing with the student, Vasquez concealed two pieces of material evidence that she and the college were considering in the course of their investigation, despite assuring the student that she had disclosed to him all of the information upon which she and the college would rely in determining whether to lift his suspension.
In relying upon this unmentioned evidence—which, upon revelation, proved to be uncorroborated and allegedly completely fabricated—to sustain the student’s suspension, Vasquez and other college officials willfully denied the student the opportunity to respond to all the evidence against him.
In fact, the student would not learn about all of this purported evidence until March 2017—months after Vasquez and the college had decided to maintain his suspension indefinitely.
In that March 2017 court order, Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle enjoined the enforcement of UCSB’s suspension order and commanded the college to give the student “full access to UCSB and all programs and activities … with no restrictions.” He castigated Vasquez and other college officials for violating the student’s due process rights and thereby dispensing with one of the most critical elements of any judicial proceeding.
“John Doe [the student] is entitled to know all the information against him at the hearing; not via emailing his counsel allegedly critical and decisive information at a later time,” Anderle declared. “The fact is, that it is patently obvious to this Court, Petitioner was seriously prejudiced by the use of [this evidence].”
“The backbone of our legal system requires all evidence to be presented in the Courtroom where it can be tested; it can be questioned,” he continued. “Evidence acquired otherwise is an abrogation of our legal system.”
Anderle also blasted Vasquez and other officials for stretching the college’s investigation into the student’s already vindicated conduct over nearly three quarters of school—more than 200 days, in blatant violation of the college’s own statutory obligations—in an effort to discourage him from attending at all.
“This Court concludes that the University is intentionally doing indirectly what it is unwilling to do directly,” Anderle wrote. “The University has made a decision to deny John Doe the opportunity to enroll … [b]ut instead of making that decision based upon the facts, the law, and in fairness, it has decided to do it their own way.”
“The University’s inaction over such a lengthy period of time, leaving Petitioner in limbo, is unreasonable and arbitrary,” he said. The length of the investigation violated not only federal guidance but also multiple U.C. statutes and regulations.
The judge spared no criticism of the interim suspension itself, which he characterized as “particularly egregious given the University’s delay in completion of its Title IX investigation, the dismissal of the juvenile court proceedings against Petitioner, and the seven month interruption in his education.”
Because the student suffered “irreparable harm” at the hands of Vasquez and other officials, the judge explained, the student merited full judicial relief.
In her new position at Pitzer College, Vasquez is “responsible for enforcement of the Code of Student Conduct and for ensuring that the rights of all students are upheld.”
The Independent has also learned that the student’s case has been accepted by the Department of Education for investigation on the basis of potential Title IX and Title VI violations. Title IX “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex,” while Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin,” according to the Department of Education’s website.
On that investigation, the student’s San Diego-based attorney, Bob Ottilie, stated, “While the specifics of the Department of Education investigation are confidential, I can confirm that Ms. Vasquez’s conduct is a component.”
Vasquez and Pitzer College officials have yet to respond to the Independent’s requests for comment.
Edit: An earlier version of this article referred to the student’s attorney as Robert Ottilie. He prefers “Bob Ottilie,” and the article has been updated accordingly.
Update: In an email to the Pitzer student body, the college’s vice president for student affairs Brian A. Carlisle called this article “reckless and inaccurate” and expressed the college’s “full support” for Sandra Vasquez. Included in the email was a statement from Vasquez herself, in which she said that the article “does not accurately describe the case at UCSB” and that she has “never concealed material evidence in any case.”
This is the first statement of any kind, from either Vasquez or the college, regarding this article. Neither Vasquez nor the college has responded to our direct requests for comment and clarification.