In response to threats by the University of Minnesota to discipline students for peacefully (but noisily) protesting on campus, more than 60 faculty members at the U have signed a letter asking administrators to discipline them, too. Riffing on the famous scene from the film “Spartacus” in which slaves stand in solidarity with the rebel leader faculty are using the letter to point out the injustice of charging students for behavior that would not result in sanctions for other members of the community.
The letter mentions specifically the cases of two groups of students. The first group, which includes nine students from the collective Whose Diversity?, are facing possible disciplinary action from the Office for Student Conduct & Academic Integrity (OSCAI) for participating in a protest at a ribbon cutting ceremony at Coffman Memorial Union on March 12. The second group, Students for a Democratic Society, is currently facing possible disciplinary action from the office of Student Unions & Activities for organizing the April 17 rally outside the Condoleezza Rice lecture at Northrop Auditorium. The group could be deregistered or denied access to space, and individual students could also potentially face disciplinary action from OSCAI as well.
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The letter is as follows:
May 12, 2014
Sharon Dzik, Director
Office for Student Conduct & Academic Integrity
211 Appleby Hall
Maggie Towle, Director
Student Unions & Activities
Suite 500, Coffman Memorial Union
Dear Ms. Dzik and Ms. Towle,
We are writing in regard to letters sent by your offices to members of the student collective, Whose Diversity?, and to the student group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Members of Whose Diversity? and the student group, SDS, are being threatened with disciplinary action as a consequence of their engagement in peaceful public protest. Whose Diversity? staged a protest at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the second floor of Coffman Memorial Union on March 12, 2014, and SDS organized the rally outside the Condoleezza Rice lecture at Northrop Auditorium on April 17, 2014. We find it troubling that the Student Conduct Code is being used to intimidate and to possibly punish students who speak out collectively on matters of shared concern on campus.
Some of us attended the protests and some of us did not. But we are unified in our support of these students. For this reason, we would like to be disciplined as well. If our status as faculty members rather than students presents a jurisdictional issue, please forward our request to the appropriate university office. If the fact that some of us were not present for the protest is a problem, please let us know which university guidelines (and relevant subsections) we must break in order to receive an equivalent sanction.