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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Fossil Free Contests Conduct Sanctions

Three GU Fossil Free members are pleading against charges by the Office of Student Conduct issued March 25 on unauthorized access to restricted spaces and failure to comply with university and law enforcement officials.

They received the sanctions after protesting at World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim’s lecture on global warming at Gaston Hall two weeks ago.

After Kim finished his speech, GU Fossil Free members Elaine Colligan (SFS ’15), Patricia Cipollitti (SFS ’15) and Chloe Lazarus (COL ’16) walked onto the stage with a banner quoting a statement Kim had previously made on climate change. Director of Student Conduct Judy Johnson and several Georgetown University Police Department officers physically escorted the three students off the stage.

On Friday, Colligan, Cipolliti and Lazarus met with Johnson to discuss the alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct. The charges could result in a $25 fine related to unauthorized access and housing probation for the failure to comply with university officials.

Johnson declined to comment on the specific incident, but emphasized that student resistance to university officials and law officers is a violation of the Code of Student Conduct. The group vocally resisted requests to step down from Johnson, and after five minutes of dialogue, left the stage.

“The student code of conduct outlines behaviors, consistent with community standards, that are considered violations of the code. For example, engaging in behavior that does not adhere to the directives of a university official or a law enforcement officer is a violation,” Johnson wrote in an email to The Hoya.

The three members are currently challenging the charges on the grounds of free speech rights that are guaranteed by the Speech and Expression Policy. The charges made by the Office of Student and possible punishments are “adjucated based on the nature and severity of the behavior and the sanction, which typically may be imposed for a first time violation of a single regulation,” according to the Student Conduct Sanctioning Guide. Disciplinary decisions and sanctions can be appealed. In the appeals process, an administrator or Hearing Board reviews the original record and supporting documents. A sanctioned group can only appeal once.

Section II, Part E of the policy states that, “expressive activities planned and executed with the intention of protesting an event, policy or other concept can take place in all campus locations, regardless of whether the space has been reserved for that purpose, as long as the actions do not violate other university policies, disrupt university business, or curtail the free speech rights of others.”

Cipollitti said that she maintains that GU Fossil Free abided by the university’s speech and expression policy, which states that students may protest events, “as long as the actions do not violate other university policies, disrupt university business or curtail the free speech rights of others.”

“[Johnson] kept indicating that this was an issue of student conduct and not free speech and we kept replying that we were abiding by the university policy, the free speech policy, and therefore these charges based on the Code of Student Conduct were inapplicable to us, so it was kind of a back-and-forth,” Cipollitti said.

According to Cipolliti, the three will continue to argue against the charges, in hopes that the university would comply with its free speech policy.

“We are prepared to defend our right to free speech, which has been a topic of conversation in the past year at the university and because we hope that the university will uphold this right and we hold it in good faith that they genuinely abide by the university’s mission and commitment to the free interchange of ideas,” Cipollitti said. “We think that the consequences will be consistent to that.”

Speech and Expression Committee member Sam Kleinman (COL ’16), who was present at the meeting, said that Johnson did not seem interested in hearing the three students’ defense. Kleinman, as a member of the committee, was at the meeting to serve as a witness and advocate for the group througout the process.

“[Johnson] was pretty dead set and pretty convinced that [the students] were ‘guilty.’ She seemed rather upset and vexed that those three folks from GU Fossil Free didn’t admit that they had done something wrong,” Kleinman said. “At one point, she said and I quote, ‘I don’t want to get into a debate with you,’ toward the end of the meeting.”

Kleinman said that he supports GU Fossil Free in expressing their beliefs through the freedom of expression.

“This is clearly a matter of expression and not code of conduct,” Kleinman said. “This is a free speech issue and I am still staunch in my belief along with [GU Fossil Free] that [they] had every right to be on that stage.”

Hoya Staff Writer Jack Bennett contributed reporting.

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  • T

    The DudeApr 1, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Neither Kleinman nor Cipollitti appear to have any commonsense. Both think Fossil Free were engaged in legitimate protest and did not violate university policy despite their actions clearly violating University policy, the text of which is even quoted in this article.

    And whether they realize it or not, they are also saying disruptive actions like Fossil Free’s should be an option for those who disagree with any and all future speakers, opening the door to having students on stage, interrupting and in effect silencing the speeches of every invited guest from now on. Do students really want that to happen to everyone who visits?

    A $25 fine is not enough. That they’re even appealing that tiny amount is a sign they’re not willing to sacrifice or suffer the consequences of their beliefs, something those really committed to a cause are willing to do, and expect, if they’re not being hypocrites These girls (I won’t call them women b/c they’re obviously not adults) use fossil fuels all the time. The only positive is their names are online now and a potential employer will see them with a simple Google search.

  • M

    MichelleMar 31, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    There’s a problem with Fossil Free’s argument. They claim protection under Section 2, Part E … but they apparently did not keep reading to Part F. Part F, “Entrance into University Buildings by Protestors,” clearly states: “Protestors may not enter a building if that space has been secured for a speech to be given in that building. For example, the Healy lobby is often used for entrance to speeches in Gaston Hall. In that case, the protestors must remain outside the building in a space previously designated by the Center for Student Engagement, the Office of Campus Activity Facilities, the Department of Public Safety and the Office of Protocol and Events. This policy applies to any buildings where a major event or speaker is hosted.”

    Now on one hand, I don’t think this applies because what they were doing really wasn’t protesting at all. (Leading me to be even more confused about why they felt the need to literally climb on stage to “show support” to Kim, but I digress…) However, IF you’re going to claim protection under Part E, which is called “Protest of Events,” then you MUST be prepared to follow all sections regarding protesting. By that logic, they shouldn’t have even been in Healy Hall, let alone Gaston Hall, let alone the stage.

    Besides – From what I know about protesting (and I’ve been part of climate change protests before), part of the deal is accepting the punishment that is dealt to you. That’s why the protestors went to jail after standing at the gate of the White House. You didn’t see Bill McKibben arguing with cops about why they shouldn’t arrest him. Part of the meaningful nature of the non-violent protest is maintaining the moral high ground, ALL THE WAY THROUGH – even through punishment.