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Judicial Hearings Begin as Faculty Challenge Process

Photo+Credit%3A+Michael+O%27Hara
Photo Credit: Michael O'Hara

Photo Credit: Michael O'Hara

Photo Credit: Michael O'Hara

Will DiGravio and Alex Newhouse

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The first official judicial hearing for students who participated in the March 2 protests against Dr. Charles Murray is scheduled to take place today, May 4, as of press time. 

The hearing will examine the cases of at least 18 respondents — the official term for students who have been charged with violating the College Handbook. The respondents requested to have their hearing as a large group.

The College offered students the option to have their case heard individually, as a member of a small group, or as part of the large group. At the time of this report, no students have chosen to testify as a small group, while a few have opted for an individual hearing. Individual hearings have yet to be scheduled.

The College is viewing the events of March 2 as two separate protests. The first is the protest that prevented Murray from speaking after he took the stage. The second is the one that continued in Wilson Hall as the College live-streamed a conversation between Murray and Allison Stanger, professor of international politics and economics.

Students whom the College believes participated in both the first and second protests are those who are facing official college discipline, and who have opted to go forward with the judicial process. Official punishment is anything that goes on a student’s permanent record.

As reported in the April 27 issue of The Campus, the College has already placed more than 30 students on probation for participating in the first protest. Probation is a form of unofficial discipline, and means that a student will have a letter placed in their file that will be removed at the end semester, as long as they do not violate another college policy.

The 18 students who are proceeding with Thursday’s hearing are not contesting that they violated the “Demonstrations and Protest” policy of the College Handbook. Rather, the hearing will determine the type of sanction that those students will receive. Students who want to challenge the College’s account of what occurred or object to the College’s ruling have been provided with other adjudication options. At this time, it is unclear exactly what those options are. However, according to one person familiar with the situation, they will most likely consist of separate hearings.

As a response to the way in which the administration has conducted the investigation into the events of March 2, a group of students, with support from faculty members, planned to conduct a sit-in protest in the Services Building on Friday, April 28. Their goal was to push the Middlebury College administration to be more transparent regarding the disciplinary process for students involved in the Murray protests.

The sit-in corresponded with greater efforts from faculty members to seek information from administrators regarding the disciplinary proceedings. Laurie Essig, associate professor of sociology and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, Linus Owens, associate professor of sociology and Sujata Moorti, professor of gender, sexuality and feminist studies, were among a group of faculty members who reached out to the administration. Initially, they were hoping for more information from the meeting to better understand the disciplinary process and help students who are facing hearings.

“Our original plan was to support students who wanted to take a stand against the opacity of the judicial process,” Moorti said. “We had invited other faculty to join us as well.”

According to Essig and Owens, they were able to set up meetings with Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott and Provost Susan Baldridge prior to the sit-in. These meetings were planned to occur at the same time that students, with support from the faculty, had decided to stage the aforementioned sit-in protest at the Services Building.

However, as students and faculty gathered at Crossroads Cafe in preparation for the sit-in, both groups decided to merge the events. Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor came to the gathering to answer questions at the request of Moorti, according to both Taylor and Moorti.

The crowd of students grew over the course of about two hours. Tyler McDowell ’19, a student who attended, estimated that 40 to 70 students and 10 to 15 professors showed up. Eventually, both Smith Abbott and Baldridge arrived to answer questions.

According to McDowell, many students asked questions about why the disciplinary process has not been a “restorative justice” model. He said administrators explained that there was an attempt last year to implement such a model, but it failed.

In a comment given to The Campus, Katy Smith Abbott said, “I am working hard on a plan for bringing Restorative Practices training to campus beginning in June.”

Restorative justice is a method of discipline that emphasizes reconciliation with victims and the community at large.

“Middlebury could have gone forward with a non-punitive and restorative process,” Essig said. “A decision could have been made that rather than holding students and only students responsible, all involved parties could have been invited to sit down to figure out what happened, what harm was caused and how dissent can happen in the future in productive ways.”

In the end, Moorti said, the administrators decided to allow students to choose a group hearing.

“The meeting has produced mixed results — a shift in the nature of the hearings but no substantive shift toward restorative justice or a clarification of how and what distinguishes unofficial from official college discipline,” she said.

Essig also described the meeting as having at least some positive effects.

“I think Friday showed a possibility that Middlebury as an institution can occasionally stop and actually listen to students when members of the community stand up for our shared values,” she said. “I hope that Friday’s small and momentary break in business as usual might signal that as an institution Middlebury can stop punishing protesters and decide to incorporate dissent into its notions of free speech and academic freedom in the future.”

9 Comments

9 Responses to “Judicial Hearings Begin as Faculty Challenge Process”

  1. TJ on May 4th, 2017 3:07 pm

    “Laurie Essig, associate professor of sociology and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, Linus Owens, associate professor of sociology and Sujata Moorti, professor of gender, sexuality and feminist studies,”.

    What is the placement rate of students in this discipline?
    Looking at the faculty what else needs to be said?
    Under the guise of snowflakism, Title IX has again been misinterpreted and the one Obama era failure that will eventually render his legacy moot, is his train wreck which is Title IX.

    [Reply]

  2. Killer Marmot on May 4th, 2017 4:29 pm

    Dissent is fine. Preventing others from speaking is illiberal thuggery.

    Any questions?

    [Reply]

  3. bob loblaw on May 4th, 2017 5:37 pm

    i weep for the future

    [Reply]

  4. Douglas Levene on May 4th, 2017 8:21 pm

    Restorative justice would require the students to sincere repent their misdeeds and seek forgiveness from Murray and Stanger. I’ve seen no sign that the students would be wilingl to do that.

    [Reply]

  5. Eric Rasmusen on May 4th, 2017 9:14 pm

    Am I to understand that probation is considered an adequate penalty at Middlebury for assaulting a professor and sending her to the hospital? I guess if they’d killed her, it would have been suspension for a semester, or even a year.

    [Reply]

  6. Jack Doyle '78 on May 5th, 2017 7:09 am

    People
    In the Real World there are consequences for Assault and Battery. Restorative Practices do not legitimize infringement of other’s First Amendment RIGHTS. The students and faculty members who encouraged and committed these heinous acts and besmirched Alma Mater must understand that outside the cocooned plushness of Camp Middlebury, poor decisions have undesired results. Time to put your Big Boy (and Girl) pants on kids.

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  7. Joe on May 5th, 2017 12:14 pm

    There’s a difference between peaceful protesting and violently shutting down speech you don’t like. The former is a legitimate use of free speech while the latter is the act of petulant children throwing a tantrum because ideas they don’t like are being discussed. Of course those propagandists masquerading as scholars (when is gender studies ever anything other than a front for pushing far left views?) are supporting the protesters

    [Reply]

  8. kel katt on May 6th, 2017 11:07 am

    This is asinine! I am sooooo very tired of hearing about how these college students are prohibiting people that they do not agree w/ from being able to speak. They are nothing but spoiled little brats who need to learn that actions have consequences. They choose to hold this idiotic protest and don’t want to pay the price for their actions? I hope the college leaders will make an example of them…….someone needs to……so that colleges and universities can quit being a joke and once again gain back the prestige they once held. It’s time to take back these schools of higher learning from the grade school mentality they have sunk to. It’s time to get all the whinny little babies out of there until they have grown up enough to be true adults and act accordingly.

    I sincerely hope that this college disciplines these students to the utmost so that they will realize that theirs is not the only voice that matter in this world. The real world does not revolve around them and they are not the only ones in it. There are numerous ideologies out there and most have a degree of merit. Grade schools may be required by law to take in immature and troubled kids, but these colleges and universities are not. It’s time that these bastions of learning stand up and demand that the students act according to the rules and regulations that govern said college/university. If they can’t/won’t then it’s time to cut your affiliation w/ them and let them move on to a lower class of educational system that will pander to them.

    It’s time to choose your students wisely as they are a reflection of who you are.

    [Reply]

  9. The Alumni on May 8th, 2017 11:46 am

    We can assure you, alumni giving will plummet if this is the tact taken. Please continue down this path and make sure there is no college for future students. It would be better that way.

    [Reply]

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Judicial Hearings Begin as Faculty Challenge Process