Suspended for Cheating, Student Sues Princeton

PRINCETON. N.J.--Testimony began this summer in the suit against the Princeton University's 89-year-old honor system by Robert A. Clayton '82, who was convicted of cheating on a test in 1979 by the Honor Committee and suspended for a year.

Clayton charges in his two-year-old suit that the committee failed to provide him with certain procedural rights guaranteed by the Honor System Consitution.

In particular, Clayton charges that his defense was undermined by instructions given to his "defense advocate," Derek Kirkland '79 by Honor Committee member Chris Shields '79.

In addition to damages, Clayton, now a first year medical student at the University of Maryland, seeks to have his academic record purged of the cheating conviction.

Clayton was found guilty of cheating on a March 6, 1979 Biology 204 lab practical exam after Robert Varrin '80 accused Clayton of conferring with Howard Nelson '82 before turning in his answers.

The alleged cheating occurred during a make-up exam when only Varrin, Clayton and Nelson were present.

Clayton's lawyers sought to paint a picture of an Honor Committee concerned with a spate of bad publicity and under pressure to convict someone. In April 1979, The Daily Princetonian released a controversial poll which said that one-third of undergraduates had cheated on an exam.

Kirkland testified that Shields had told him not to take a "partisan" role in Clayton's defense. During committee hearings, only the "defense advocate" is permitted to cross-examine the accuser. The accused is not allowed to be present during the testimony against him.

Kirkland said when he asked Shields to disqualify himself because of bias, he refused.

Clayton had to wait two years for his case to come to court because of the crowded federal court docket.