|Approved by the:
|Student Senate November 5, 2015|
The University administration sincerely appreciates the viewpoints of the Student Senate regarding the disciplinary process for those students who participated in a demonstration in Morrill Hall in February 2015. We believe that there should be due process for violations of the Student Conduct Code, particularly when students are clearly provided the opportunity to avoid consequences. The students who trespassed in Morrill Hall received many warnings that if they did not leave after building closing hours they faced arrest. Some of them chose to leave and avoided arrest. Like the Student Senate, we support "the right of free speech and peaceful protest," but expression of free speech does not automatically include the right to violate University policies or the law. We supported the completion of the process through the hearing of the Campus Committee on Student Behavior.
Statement on Formal Disciplinary Action against Whose Diversity?
On February 9th, 2015, members of Whose Diversity? (WD?), a non-official campus student group, staged a sit-in demonstration in Morrill Hall. The goal of the demonstration was to advance eight diversity-related demands that were "based on marginalized students' experiences and community recommendations" by identifying concrete steps the University could take. Members of WD? discussed these demands with President Eric Kaler and other University administrators throughout the day. WD? requested a written response to each of their demands, which President Kaler provided. The activists were warned that remaining in the building after it closed would be cause for a legal citation and/or arrest. Not satisfied with the University's response, thirteen WD? members remained in the building risking arrest in an act of civil disobedience. These thirteen members were then arrested for trespassing and transported to the Hennepin County Jail, where they were later released on bail. On advice from their attorney, the thirteen members later agreed in Hennepin County District Court to accept a deal for deferred prosecution.
In addition to these legal sanctions, the administration and the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (OSCAI) has chosen to pursue disciplinary sanctions, charging these students with violating Section VI, Subdivisions 4 (Refusal to Identify and Comply) and 9 (Disorderly Conduct) of the Student Conduct Code.
Continued pursuit of these charges will only serve to hinder the University's efforts to improve the campus climate, especially considering that these individuals were standing up for students from marginalized backgrounds who have historically struggled to be heard and feel welcome on campus. To the student body, this action appears as an act of needless retribution and a message that free speech and student activism is not welcome on this campus.
Therefore, the Student Senate urges the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity to drop the pursuit of formal disciplinary action against the thirteen members of Whose Diversity?. Further, the Student Senate supports the position held by more than 150 faculty members urging "the administration to err on the side of supporting critically engaged students and upholding freedom of speech and assembly, even at the cost of the temporary inconveniencing of business as usual."