Dear OSCAI panel members in the case of Rahsaan Mahadeo and David Melendez,
At her suggestion, I am sending this email to you through Sharon Dzik. I hope it gets to you before you make your decision in the cases of Rahsaan Mahadeo and David Melendez, both of whom are charged with violations of the U of M Student Conduct Code.
I was not present during the incidents at Morrill Hall, but I feel I have some information regarding one of the group's demands that may help you make a responsible decision in these cases.
My experience tells me you may have the wrong students before your panel. It may well be that, instead, you should have the 40,000-plus rest of us Twin Cities Campus students facing your panel. We have failed to hold U of M officials to the Guiding Principles found in section one of the Student Conduct Code. We may have undermined those principles by having not occupied Morrill Hall and having not held University administrators accountable for their own disregard of some of those guiding principles.
The experience I have concerns the demand of the protesters that "the university immediately remove language from its admissions application that questions prospective students about their prior convictions and criminal offenses." For the past year, I have had numerous email exchanges with, and have heard factually incorrect information delivered by, University officials in attempting to defend this illogical, unsupported, and racist policy.
The claim by U of M officials is that asking this question makes for a safer campus. Believe me, I'm no rocket scientist, but that claim is preposterous.
One, the policy is illogical because if the goal were a safer campus, all schools on campus would be required to ask it. But some in fact do not ask such a question, e.g., the College of Continuing Education (in which I am enrolled) and the Graduate School.
Two, the policy is unsupported because there are no studies that show asking this question makes the campus safer. Even more incriminating of the fatuous reasoning of University officials is that they don't even seek any evidence. For example, MNSCU schools do not ask such a question, and the University didn't always ask it. That means some comparative evidence could be gathered, but the officials at what is allegedly an institution of higher education, the University of Minnesota, have not been the least bit interested in doing that. Frighteningly, evidence seems to be irrelevant to their decisions on this issue.
Three, the policy is racist because every study has shown that Blacks are disproportionately represented -- disproportionate to their numbers in the population and disproportionate to the number of crimes they commit -- at every step in the criminal justice system.
The responses I have received from University officials on this issue are embarrassing. They exhibit a "Don't confuse me with the facts" position. Until I suggested it, the University, in revising this question last year, was not even in touch with the criminology expertise it has right here on campus.
So what does all this have to do with "refusal to identify and comply" and "disorderly conduct"? Well, the Student Conduct Code begins with "Guiding Principles." Among those principles are seeking "an environment that promotes academic...integrity...and that serves the educational mission of the University"; and a dedication "to the rational and orderly resolution of conflict."
I would suggest that you must look at the alleged code violations in light of those guiding principles. And from personal experience with one of the protesters demands, I can tell you that the University of Minnesota, as an institution, has been intellectually dishonest, has mocked academic integrity, and has rejected rational resolution of conflict. I have been denied requested meetings on the criminal background question with the Vice President for Equity and Diversity and with the head of the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I attended a campus event moderated by Kimberly Hewitt, the head of EOAA. She told me that I had heard from several people in her office. I informed her the only time I had heard from her office was a letter from her and a staff member, at which I time I asked for a meeting to discuss the response I had received in that letter. The request was denied. I have found that on issues where evidence is seen as irrelevant, such misstatements are typical of University officials.
So if my experience on this one issue has been similar to the experiences of Mr. Mahadeo and Mr. Melendez on the multiple issues they have helped bring forward to the U of M community, then you have the wrong people in the dock. You really should have all of us students who don't flinch in the slightest when University officials act contrary to the very guidelines of intellectual inquiry, academic integrity, and rational resolution of conflict that form the basis for the Student Conduct Code.
Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic but I see you as being put in the position of Bull Connor's troops in Birmingham, Alabama. The water hoses are in your hands. The only question is whether you're going to turn on the water, and then turn the hoses on those raising issues that needed to be raised.
U of M Alumnus and Continuing Education student
P.S. I will be sending a separate email about how your limiting access to this hearing, after Mr. Mahadeo and Mr. Melendez have both waived claims to privacy, is such a missed opportunity for campus education.