Protestors could face punishments

Whose Diversity? members protested at Coffman Union’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in March.

by Haley Hansen

University of Minnesota students could face disciplinary action for chanting and holding signs at Coffman Union’s second floor ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this semester.

Members of the Whose Diversity? student group led the protest and say the University is threatening unwarranted punishments for their March 12 demonstration, but administrators say they’re simply following protocol.

“The charges were not founded,” said senior Tori Hong, a Whose Diversity? member. “All we really did was ask questions and hold up signs.”

Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young, who attended the ceremony, said a letter was sent to nine students on Tuesday after an individual filed a complaint with the Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Office.

The students engaged in disruptive behavior and refused to identify and comply with University officials at the event, according to the letter.

“There were several administrators who did ask the group to stop being disruptive,” Brown Young said. “They didn’t comply, so I would say I did see some disruption of a University event.”

The letter outlines punishments ranging from warnings to expulsion, but Brown Young said that doesn’t necessarily mean the University will pursue any disciplinary actions. The protestors are required to visit the Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Office by May 6.

“It’s just a process to have that individual come into the office so they can be explained their rights [and] they can understand the process better,”  Brown Young said.

University faculty members and administrators in the Student Conduct and Academic Integrity office want to hear the students’ perspective, she said, and expulsions are only reserved for severe cases.

“What I really truly want to emphasize is that this process is meant to be educational and it’s meant to be developmental,” Brown Young said.

Of the nearly 40 protestors, the individual who filed the complaint listed only nine, Hong said. Five of the students will seek legal counselling, she said.

Senior Leah Prudent, another member of Whose Diversity?, said the letter violates the students’ first amendment rights and she hopes their lawyer will convince the University to drop any charges.

Hong said she’s concerned how the impending punishments could affect her academic career and expected graduation date set in June.

 “The event was not disrupted,” she said. “The proceedings still went on in the way that it was supposed to.”