The Student Activities Commission voted last night to sanction workers’ rights group Georgetown Solidarity Committee by admitting the group into a restoration process that removes GSC control over its budget.
The restoration sanction, announced at a public hearing in the Healey Family Student Center, was approved by a seven-to-three vote. As a result, GSC leadership will lose control over its own budget and will be forced to request funding on a case-by-case basis. The group will retain all other rights as an established club.
GSC will be in restoration until spring 2018, with the opportunity to file an appeal to SAC to lift the sanctions in December.
The sanctions come after the students ignored multiple requests from Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Chief of Staff Joseph Ferrara to vacate university premises at the close of business hours Dec. 8.
Eight members of GSC remained in DeGioia’s suite of offices overnight until Dec. 9, when the university announced that it would not renew the university’s contract with Nike unless the company allowed independent workers rights monitoring group Worker Rights Consortium independent access and reporting of complaints regarding factory condition.
The students who remained in the suite overnight also received personal sanctions, given their violations of the university’s Code of Student Conduct. They have been put on disciplinary probation until the fall 2017 semester, are required to pay a $50 fine, serve five work sanction hours and send a formal letter of apology to Ferrara, according to an Office of Student Conduct letter sent to GSC members Friday.
According to SAC Chair Ricardo Mondolfi (SFS ’19), restoration is one step below full access.
“A club in restoration has every right that a club under access to benefits has, but they lose a budget,” Mondolfi said. “As a group under SAC we want to make sure that they succeed and thrive.”
SAC, which is responsible for club funding, called a hearing after a complaint was filed with the Center for Student Engagement alleging that GSC disrupted the functions of the university and used university space without permission, both of which are prohibited under the Student Organization Standards, set by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.
All clubs are required to adhere to the Student Organization Standards in order to receive university funding.
GSC members Joseph Gomez (SFS ’19), Maddy Rice (COL ’20) and Lily Ryan (COL ’17) attended the hearing.
Rice said the sanctions are inconvenient but not excessive.
“It’s definitely an inconvenience for us, it’s not an unmanageable convenience and we respect the decision to put that restriction on us,” Rice said. “As far as the GSC board, we’re satisfied with the actions taken. We understand why they were taken and we look forward to working with SAC.”
Restoration was pitched as a relatively mild sanction compared to fines or being stripped of university funding for club trips.
Mondolfi said he is glad the committee was able to agree on a sanction that GSC accepts.
“It’s good both that we think these sanctions are appropriate, and that they do think that the sanctions are appropriate, and we look forward to helping them work and succeed as a SAC organization,” Mondolfi said. “Our intention was always to educate and repair rather than punish, and I think they understand that.”
During the SAC hearing, the GSC representatives argued that the eight GSC members who stayed overnight in the president’s office acted as individuals, and their protest did not constitute a GSC event.
As such, they argued it would be inappropriate to sanction the entire group.
Several commissioners expressed skepticism at this argument. During the hearing, SAC Vice Chair
Thaameran Sarveswaran (SFS ’18) emphasized that the sit-in was a GSC group event.
“I fail to see how it is at all in question that this is a group event,” Sarveswaran said. “It’s absolutely appropriate for us to sanction them as an organization.”
Mondolfi said that the language used by GSC in promoting and publicizing the event make it clear that it was a group event, and that GSC is therefore responsible for the rules violations.
“Even if we considered that this was a GSC event until close of business and then it wasn’t, the language GSC used in their social media campaign and even in the banner that they threw over the office was ‘occupied until DeGioia cuts Nike,’ ‘we are staying here until the contract is ended,” Mondolfi said. “The commission found that even if we agree to their point that they didn’t personally disrupt it, the language they were using was an imminent threat of disruption. When you say ‘we aren’t leaving until you do this,’ that is threatening disruption.”
In addition to violating the Student Organization Standards, Mondolfi said GSC failed to comply with certain aspects of SAC policy, including failing to request SAC approval to hold the event when using university space.
The SAC hearing came after the Georgetown University Student Association voted Sunday in support of a resolution condemning the university for over-sanctioning the individual GSC members, claiming it restrained student activism. Twelve senators voted for the resolution, and seven abstained from voting. No senators voted against the resolution.
“It discourages future student activism and kind of ignores how instrumental student activism has been on the campus before in the past and probably will be moving forward,” GUSA Sen. Jasmin Ouseph (SFS ’19), who introduced the motion, said. “We just wanted to express that we as GUSA, and kind of on behalf of the student body, are recognizing the value of student protest and the work they did and probably will continue to do.”