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Second Wave of Murray Protesters Face Discipline

A+group+of+students+and+other+Middlebury+community+members+stood+outside+the+Services+Building+to+support+students+before+the+judicial+hearing+on+May+4.
A group of students and other Middlebury community members stood outside the Services Building to support students before the judicial hearing on May 4.

A group of students and other Middlebury community members stood outside the Services Building to support students before the judicial hearing on May 4.

A group of students and other Middlebury community members stood outside the Services Building to support students before the judicial hearing on May 4.

Will DiGravio, News Editor

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A group of 19 students have been placed on probation for the remainder of the academic year, plus an additional two semesters, after the Community Judicial Board found them guilty of violating college policy by participating in the March 2 protests against Dr. Charles Murray.

The students were notified of their punishment on Friday, May 5, the day after they testified before the Judicial Board as a group.

Probation is a form of unofficial college discipline that consists of a student having a letter placed in their file. If a student violates another college policy while on probation, they may be subject to official college discipline. The letter remains in the student’s file until graduation.

In a typical judicial hearing, respondents — the official term for students who have been charged with violating the College Handbook — are allowed to invite a “support person.” However, due to the large number of respondents, the College allowed the group to invite a maximum of five support persons. The respondents opted to invite Sujata Moorti, professor of gender, sexuality and feminist studies, Jamie McCallum, assistant professor of sociology, Linus Owens, associate professor of sociology, Darién Davis, professor of history, and Patricia Saldarriaga, professor of Spanish.

The hearing, which lasted roughly four hours, started at 6 p.m. on Thursday night. As students entered the hearing, they were provided with a packet of evidence that included photographs, screenshots, links to videos and a description of the charges that were being brought against them.

The meeting began with an opening statement by the respondents. According to one respondent, the students spent roughly 20 hours over the course of four to five days drafting the statement prior to the hearing. They were allowed fifteen minutes to make their opening remarks. Prior to the hearing, the group had chosen a few respondents to read their statement.

Respondents were then given a letter, written by Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott, that outlined the charges that were being brought against them by the College. They were afforded an opportunity to read the letter prior to the start of the hearing.

Students were facing official college discipline for participating in the events of March 2, which the College viewed 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. The group consisted of students who participated in both protests.

Prior to the start of the hearing, students accepted that they violated the “Demonstrations and Protests” section of the College Handbook. The hearing was to determine the type of sanction that they would receive, not to dispute their involvement in the protests.

Members of the Judicial Board and respondents then engaged in a question and answer session. Respondents had the ability to discuss their answers to the questions as a group, however, they designated a few specific members to provide the answers.

Per the College’s Judicial Handbook Policy, each respondent then had the opportunity to have a character reference speak on their behalf. All 19 respondents had a character reference.

While a majority of the references were faculty members, some were staff members and adults from outside the Middlebury community — 16 references were in attendance and three sent letters. They each had four minutes to speak and were called into the hearing separately. Character references were not allowed to talk about the events of March 2, nor any other information or events that did not directly relate to a respondent’s character.

Respondents were then allowed to deliver a closing statement. According to those involved, the students drafted a rough outline prior to the hearing, however, they were able to adjust their statement throughout the hearing based on the proceedings. The Campus was unable to obtain a copy of the opening and closing statements, although those involved said that they may be released soon.

Once the hearing concluded, members of the Judicial Board spent over two hours deliberating, according to one person familiar with the situation.

As of press time, individual hearings for those involved with both protests have yet to take place. It is unclear when these hearings will take place and how many students opted for an individual hearing.

Though this is the final print issue of the academic year, The Campus will continue coverage of this story online at www.middleburycampus.com.

1 Comment

One Response to “Second Wave of Murray Protesters Face Discipline”

  1. James Marc Leas on May 12th, 2017 1:00 am

    Here is the College Handbook rule: “Individuals or groups who disrupt an event or essential operation or fail to leave when asked are in violation of the College’s policy of respect for persons and may also be in violation of the policy regarding disrespect for College officials. These violations of College policy may result in College discipline. Disruption may also result in arrest and criminal charges such as disorderly conduct or trespass.”

    However, as shown below, in this case, the speech by Charles Murray could not have been the event. The protest was the event. The protest was effectively organized by the Political Science Department when that department invited Dr. Murray to campus. The protest did not disrupt the event. The protest was the event.

    Here is why:

    The students who protested were implementing a powerful commitment made by Middlebury College in the very same Middlebury College Handbook that includes the above rule.

    The students who protested upheld the College Handbook’s firm statement: “Middlebury College (“Middlebury”) is committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive campus environment where bigotry and intolerance are unacceptable.”

    By inviting the racist professor, by a top administrator welcoming the racist professor, and by a Dean of the College prosecuting the student protesters whose action actually aligned the event with the anti-racist provision of the College Handbook, certain members of the college administration would have effectively overturned this provision — if not for the protest. Absent the protest, it would be those administrators who would or should be facing the Community Judicial Board as a group.

    Instead, the student protesters – who someday future leaders of Middlebury College are likely to honor for their courage and their determination to defend the anti-racist commitment of the College – are now subjected to unjust punishment.

    The student protesters deserve immense credit for shaping the event to be consistent with the express anti-racist provision of the College Handbook “where bigotry and intolerance are unacceptable.”

    Unacceptable means not allowed to happen.

    Who at Middlebury College would have had honor or self-respect if the racist professor had not been met with determined protest? Once a racist is invited to appear on campus, consistency with the provision of the College Handbook means the event is the protest. No one disrupted the event because, under the anti-racist provision of the College Handbook, the protest was the event.

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Second Wave of Murray Protesters Face Discipline