SDS members could face discipline from U

The University of Minnesota is punishing members of the student group SDS for the disruption of the convocation ceremony.

James Nord

The University of Minnesota will discipline members of Students for a Democratic Society following a demonstration at freshman Convocation in September. The University Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity cited violations of the Student Conduct Code as the reason for any punishment, which will be officially imposed within weeks. SDS members snuck into Mariucci Arena, displayed banners and interrupted University President Bob BruininksâÄô speech to incoming freshman at the event. According to a letter to an SDS member from Sharon Dzik in the Office of Student Conduct, the group âÄúadmitted to participating in a disruption of Convocation by yelling, stealing and vandalizing a banner, dropping a banner, distributing flyers, using noisemakers and accessing Mariucci Arena without authorization.âÄù But Andy Somers, an SDS member, said that while the group itself claims responsibility for the event, none of the individual members admit or deny involvement. Beth Lingren Clark, director of Orientation and First-year Programs, filed one of the original complaints against the organization itself. She said the groupâÄôs actions warrant reprimand, but downplayed the significance of the event. âÄúWhen it happened, I didnâÄôt even think it was really worth mentioning âĦ there were so many things happening that day that it was just a blip on the screen,âÄù Clark said. After Convocation, University President Bob Bruinink s said the group wouldnâÄôt face punishment for their actions. Through a spokesman, Bruininks declined to comment on his previous statement regarding the consequences of SDSâÄô actions. Despite BruininksâÄô statement, the Office of Student Unions and Activities began investigating SDSâÄô activities after Convocation in order to reprimand the group. During the process of inquiry, Student Unions and Activities discovered that SDSâÄô registration as a student group had expired, and that no sanctions could be placed on the group as a result. Instead, SUA forwarded their findings to the student conduct office in order to punish the members of SDS individually under the conduct code. âÄúThe code is ridiculous,âÄù group member Tracy Molm said. âÄúI think itâÄôs one thing if there was any property damage or anybody was injured âÄî neither of those things are the case. That is an easy way for them to play like theyâÄôre just following the student code of conduct in this case, but itâÄôs very political.âÄù Associate Director of Student Unions and Services Denny Olsen dismissed SDSâÄô allegations. âÄúI think the issue in the complaint that we received is that they disrupted an event that was not open âÄî it was an event by the office of [Orientation & First-Year Programs ] that was for freshman students,âÄù he said. âÄúThey had gained access to the facility when they werenâÄôt supposed to be in there, so thatâÄôs really what the complaint is. It has nothing to do with the right to free speech.âÄù The individuals involved are in the process of meeting with administrators to determine any possible punishments. The University could go as far as expelling registered students or repealing their degrees, but Somers said that is unlikely and suspensions are more plausible. A common theme throughout administratorâÄôs criticisms of SDS has not been their message, but the methods the group employs. âÄúWeâÄôre building a campaign,âÄù Molm said. âÄúWe started off awful flashy because we felt like that was the way we needed to shake people into hearing us. If we just hand out a bunch of fliers we donâÄôt get the same response.âÄù The group will continue to operate normally despite the punishment members face. âÄúPeople donâÄôt organize just for fun or because they want to do stupid things. ThatâÄôs where kids burn barrels,âÄù Molm said. âÄúWhen theyâÄôre organized, that means thereâÄôs an actual concern.âÄù