Update, October 19th: the U Senate SAC executive committee has found that no rules on confidentiality were broken, and there was no wrongdoing by any of the student senators on the committee. In a statement released today, they added: “We have spoken to Jared and Sejal, and we’re pleased to confirm that both will be remaining on the committee as strong student advocates and participating in a process which needs student voices.”
Yesterday’s Rules of University Conduct Town Hall allowed students and activist groups the chance to voice their opinions before policy changes were definitively made. According to a tip we received earlier today, many of these opinions came from the same source: a “google doc…used to feed lines to activists” that may have been shared by a member or members of the University Senate. It is unclear whether anyone on U Senate was actually involved in writing the document. Involvement in writing the document would likely be considered a violation of the U Senate’s rules; such violations may be punished with suspension.
The tipster went on to say they were “embarrassed by how the leadership of our campus groups that like to think of themselves as independent were shepherded instead of thinking for themselves.” However, there is no clear evidence in the document that it was written by a single person, or that any of those people were U Senators—the tip did not include the list of people who could edit the Google doc.
The document itself breaks down the Town Hall step by step, listing questions students plan to ask, and noting, “these are arguments we’ve identified as being the most likely to sway swing votes on the Committee…. this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s just the essential points we need to be made in front of the campus media.” Each potential question includes background information such as applicability and past precedents included in bullet points. Between the questions, the document leaves room for personal stories and possible follow-ups. The document also includes such advice as: “There will be Public Safety and Senate Staff at the doors to the event checking CUIDs, and they may object to signs.”
A copy of the full document is included after the jump:
About This Document
If you’re receiving this strategy document, it’s because you’re a point person for a directly affected organization that has expressed concerns about the Rules. If you’re involved with multiple organizations and aren’t sure who you’re repping, there’s a listing at the bottom of this document. Listed here are strategies to make the Town Hall as successful as possible and push swing votes on the Committee on to students’ sides.
We need two things: to pack the room (which has 330 seats) and to have people raising key questions/points that we and your organizations have identified as priorities. You’ve volunteered to coordinate for your org, so we need you to make sure everyone turns up and that the statements your organization volunteered to ask are asked.
Please note that this document is HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL; we don’t want to tip anyone off to our strategy, so please do not share with anyone besides core organizers in your group. DO NOT share this with any media or anyone who may share this with media. IF YOU CAN’T MAKE THE TOWN HALL and don’t have the bandwidth this week to coordinate your organization, let us know ASAP who from your group can.
BRING YOUR LAPTOPS OR PHONES so we can coordinate who’s asking which questions and so that we can get people to the mic. If you’d like to be available for media comments on this Town Hall or on the Rules in general, please let us know.
Before Town Hall
1) INVITE people to the Facebook event:
2) SHARE the FB event on your newsfeed.
3) DISTRIBUTE the FB event and a blurb on any listservs you have access to. There are blurbs at the bottom of the document.
4) Student activists are coordinating a MIDNIGHT FLYERING CAMPAIGN to raise awareness for the Town Hall. Contact Abby Porter (email@example.com) to be involved.
5) MAKE SIGNS for the Town Hall. We want the room to look packed with passionate people — the more signs, the better. We think rights-based language or specific demands will probably be most effective at this stage in the process.
– IMPORTANT: There will be Public Safety and Senate Staff at the doors to the event checking CUIDs, and they may object to signs. If you can, hide banners and signs in bags, and only bring them out when the Town Hall starts. If you can’t hide your sign, point out that the Rules do NOT prohibit signage at this event.
– Examples: “Protect Protest”, “Free Speech on Campus”, “PrezBo Don’t Forget the 1st Amendment?”, “End Mandatory Minimums”, “External = Neutral,” “We Demand Our Right to Counsel.”, etc.
– Feel free to add other messaging tailored to your group or to email/text/call us for thoughts on language!
6) ESTIMATE how many people your group can bring to the Town Hall. We’re counting our way to to 330 so please let us know ASAP! If possible, not to double-count anyone who’ll be there representing other organizations.
Seating at Town Hall
– IF YOU PLAN TO SPEAK
– Please sit in rows 4-9, or as close to the front as possible. Fill the first level, and only go to the balcony if it’s full. If it’s hard to get a seat in the first level, and you’re comfortable with it, sit in the aisle — we want this room to look packed.
– If you have signs, make sure you’re not sitting with all the other people who have signs; we want signs spread out, not clumped together.
– IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SPEAK:
– That’s okay! We appreciate your presence anyway.
– You can hold signs for your organization! Some groups are bringing banners to show that they care.
– We need active supporters to sit in the first 3-4 rows. That means nodding, snapping, and clapping. We want rounds of snaps for every strong statement for student rights.
– If there’s no more space there, sit anywhere on the first level that’s available. If that space is full, then move to the balcony.
– If you have to leave the Town Hall early, please sit in the top rows of the first level or in the balcony.
– SIGNS AND BANNERS
– Hold/hang banners over the balcony for good photo ops!
– If you have a sign, don’t sit right next to someone else with a sign — try to scatter a little bit so that there’s signs all throughout the audience. If you have a sign, please try to sit in the first level, rows 4 — 9; if that area is full, sit in the central area of the balcony.
Questions at Town Hall
These are the points we think are most important to raise during the Town Hall — all of these are arguments we’ve identified as being the most likely to sway swing votes on the Committee. Of course, if you have specific questions or statements relative to your organization, you should definitely ask things that aren’t listed here — this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s just the essential points we need to be made in front of the campus media. Please let us know ASAP if you or your org would like to be responsible for any of these talking points.
● “This questions is for the Chair of the Committee, Mr. Riano. While these rules apply to the entire community, they have never been used to prosecute anyone besides students. In fact, these rules have been used almost exclusively to punish undergraduates. Will undergraduate students be directly involved in the drafting process?”[Dems/ Jordana]
○ Note: Direct this question to “The Chair of the Committee, Christopher Riano”. DO NOT let them get away with redirecting the question — insist on a guarantee that undergraduates will be directly involved in the drafting of ALL language. We need a public commitment that our allies will be in the room when language is drafted.
→ Which undergraduates are invited into drafting? Solely those on the Rules Committee? Why aren’t they inviting other undergraduates since this reform is structural? !!!!!! – somebody should run up to te mic and follow up with this RIGHT NOW you go girl!!!!!
Independent Process Questions + Concerns
● Chilling effect on speech with an internal process
○ NOTE: Please go through these questions in this order.
○ “If a Dean or other administrator in charge of this internal process happened to personally know the student being tried, will they be allowed to make a judgement? What protections would there be against this form of bias?” [[LUCHA]]
○ “For a hypothetical internal process: how can we expect Deans and other administrators to be neutral in judging free speech which directly criticizes them or this institution? No Red Tape protesters have publicly criticized the exact same administrators who’d be judging their cases in an internal process. The administration has an incentive to shut protest down — why would students ever trust them? [[ISO]] – who is saying this? — i havent received a response from cami, so anyone who can — Cami said she can! you just say it
○ Can we also make an ask for an internal dean’s discipline process to be Public if the student chooses? — I think it’s a good ask, but Chris is just going to say that we have no jurisdiction over that, which we dont
○ Jared I have a question – what does the decision to “overhaul” the rules or not entail? He keeps referencing the potential for it not to be considered. — the decision to make any change, the push from the administration to move internal
■ Will this be a vote that the comittee makes? there was a vote in the spring – what was the result? to move forward with changes, but the vote will be taken again after the fall town halls K, thanks. — but the spring vote indicates that most people want to move forward
○ Story 1: Personal experiences that make you mistrust Deans in adjudication.
○ (From an activist) — “I personally would have been really scared to engage in yprotest activity if we didn’t have an independent adjudication process. I’m directly criticizing Deans and administrators and if they could suspend or expel me for speaking up, I don’t think I would have.” [[NRT/Dems]]
○ Story 2: Personal experiences with Deans that make you mistrust them
○ “How can we make it easier for the Deans to suspend or expel students for criticism without shutting down protest on campus? If people are afraid think that the Admin’s going to judge them they’re just never going to speak out in the first place. This is a University — shouldn’t we be encouraging debate?” [[Sean]]
○ “How can we know that an internal, administrative-driven process won’t be driven by outside pressure? During the Minutemen stage incident, prominent media personalities like Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs were on air telling donors to withhold contributions to financial aid unless the University expelled the students involved. If the process was controlled by the administration, and not by a neutral outside arbiter, how do we know they won’t be biased by that pressure?” [[LUCHA]]
○ Story 3: Personal story from Miles, SJP
○ “”Last year, when SJP hung a pro-Palestine banner at Barnard, donors called the University threatening to withhold their donations unless Barnard took the banner down. Even though every other student group on campus has always been able to put their banners up, the University took ours down because of pressure from those donors — they specifically discriminated against pro-Palestinian speech on campus. How can we know that that pressure won’t affect all internal processes? How can we know the administration will be neutral towards controversial speech? Every year, I stand on college walk protesting Israeli apartheid and the occupation of Palestine, where I grew up. If I were expelled or suspended for chanting during Israeli apartheid week, which is entirely possible under the current Rules, my visa would be immediately revoked. I would have to immediately return to the jurisdiction of the Israeli authorities, who could jail me for my opinions. How can you justify getting one
of your students deported, ruining one of your students lives, for exercising their free speech in a non-disruptive way?” [[SJP — Hadeel ]]
○ Other potential stories:
■ Columbia allowing NYPD to spy on MSA?
■ No Red Tape threatened?
● Range of Punishments for Independent Process
○ “The external process affords you far more due process rights than an internal process, but people are never going to opt for the external process if you can only be found not guilty, suspended, or expelled. Under Dean’s Discipline, the range of sanctions is much broader (including warning and censure), but this is a non-transparent process. Students are thus deterred by the threat of harsher punishment from choosing the hearing that is going to be open, public, and transparent! The hearing officer in an external process should have the full range of punishments at their disposal.” [[GendeRevolution]]
○ “Students who are found responsible in the external process can only be punished with suspension or expulsion, no matter how minor their offense. How can the administration justify mandatory minimums for free speech activity?” [[CQA–Brennon]]
○ In deciding the case of students in the 1992 Audubon Ballroom protests in which students blocked an entrance to Hamilton Hall, Judge Harold Tyler wrote in the conclusion of his decision: “I wish that I had more flexibility in imposing sanctions than the rules permit … Rules of this nature deserve to be reconsidered with reasonable frequency by universities such as Columbia which have high standards in the field of civil liberties.” The hearing officer would have preferred censure, but he was mandated by these Rules to suspend students who were engaging in reasonable free speech activity. How is this acceptable? [[Grad Students]]
● Dean’s Discipline
○ “Can you explain the difference between the external process and the internal Dean’s Discipline process?” [[CQA — Caitlin]] asked
■ NOTE: When you ask this question, look at Sejal but don’t verbally direct it to her
■ Important Follow Up Question: “Will Dean’s Discipline be a model for an internal process?”
● Legal Representation In An Independent Process
○ If it really wants to encourage robust debate on campus, the University should assist students in finding legal representation whenever they are going through a Rules case. The excuse for getting rid of an independent, external process should not be that students might not be able to find or afford lawyers to represent their interests. What can the University do to help guarantee the right to a lawyer?
○ Could Law School faculty be available to support students in these proceedings? Maybe tenured faculty who specialize in First Amendment proceedings? [[Marshall]] asked
● Witness Rights
○ We’ve seen in archives from past cases that witnesses in the external process must waive their Fifth Amendment rights, specifically for self-incrimination. While an external process seems preferable to an internal process, it’s completely unjust that witnesses can be incriminated as things currently stand. [[Grad Students]]
○ The internal processes we have right now are so administration-driven that students don’t even have the right to present witnesses in their defense at Dean’s Discipline hearings. Are people actually going to be able to make a case for themselves under this proposed internal process?
Severity of Sanctions
● In 1992, 7 students were prosecuted under the Rules in connection to protests about the University raising the Audobon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was shot, and the University’s plan to drastically cut financial aid and end need-blind financial aid for all students. Those students were charged with “blockading entrances” but they only blocked one of the doors to Hamilton for half an hour. Hamilton has three doors, so people could still get to class and the University’s function wasn’t really disrupted, but several of them were suspended from the University. How are these kinds of punishments appropriate? ‘[[ISO]]
Broad Language Questions + Concerns
● SWS: Applicability of rules to campus workers: After Emma Sulkowicz began her now-famous senior thesis, which protested how the University handles sexual violence hearings, desk attendants at Barnard were warned against letting students take their mattresses out from their buildings (supposedly because the mattresses are the property of the university). Campus union contracts often broadly stipulate the right to protest, but we are afraid it is possible that that right could be pushed aside if the rules of conduct are not further clarified. What are you doing to make sure that campus workers do not feel threatened of accusations of complicity in violations of rules? More broadly, how can we make sure that workers feel free to agitate for fair contracts and working conditions?
● Prosecution of Noise Violations —
○ 443(a)(12) — “causes a noise that substantially hinders others in their normal academic activities”
○ Pretty much every Low Steps involve yelling, chanting, or amplified sound — and that sounds always carries into classrooms in Dodge or Hamilton. This rule basically makes it illegal for students to protest *at all*.
○ NOTE: please bring up these specific examples in separate questions — we want to make sure this point is made multiple times!
■ Specific Example — Stand with Survivors Protest [[NRT]]
■ Specific Example — Labor Solidarity Protests [[SWS/Grad Students]]
■ Specific Example — CPD/CAGe protest at World Leaders Forum [[CPD]]
● Property Damage
● After Emma Sulkowitz beg
○ 443(a)(5) — “causes minor property damage or loss, or endangers property on a University facility”
○ The Rules say that even “minor” property damage is punishable. What about when the CUCR plants flags on the lawns to commemorate 9/11? That damages the grass. Or the Native American Council’s midnight flyering campaign about Indigenous People’s Day — that could damage buildings or paint when the tape is ripped down. That stuff is minor but the Rules explicitly includes minor property damage. Could we change that to “substantial and permanent” property damage?
○ Would putting red tape around campus count as “minor” property damage? Could people be prosecuted for that? Why do the Rules consider even the most minor property damage to be more important than protecting free speech on campus?
● Brief Disruption of Events —
○ 443(a)(13) — “briefly interrupts a University function”
○ When the Philippines president came to speak at the World Leaders Forum a few weeks ago, several people briefly interrupted the event to raise legitimate concerns about human rights violations in the country. When we elevate world leaders on a pedestal at events such as these, heckling is one of the few ways for people to express disagreement, and this should clearly be protected under the Rules. That was a one minute interruption that didn’t seriously curtail the ability of anyone to speak — how is this punishable?
○ How brief can these interruptions be? If an interruption is brief, then it doesn’t prevent the event from going forward — why wouldn’t we limit punishments to substantial disruption of events?
● Entering Administrative Offices Without Permission
○ 443(a)(11) — “Persons may not enter a private office unless invited and then not in excess of the number designated or invited by the occupant. Anyone so entering must leave on request of a recognized occupant of such office or on request of another authorized person.… For this purpose, the delegate may advise demonstrators as to the permissible number of participants in such restricted areas and regulate the location of such participants.”
○ Delivering letters or petitions to offices is fundamental to getting the message delivered in many protest activities that involve the University. It seems that the language about entering a private office is so overly broad that it could hinder the ability of reasonable protesters to get letters and petitions to the people that need to see them. [example about Prison Divest delivering a letter to Bollinger’s front desk] It would be unacceptable for this to be prosecuted. (Prison Divest)
○ What about bringing additional people into meetings in order to facilitate conversations?
Standards of Evidence
– the suveillance apparatus is fundamentally different in 2014 than it was in 1968. Last year, two student activists were subject to a disciplinary hearing related to a worker’s rights rally. When they asked if students had the right to access camera footage of the event for their defense, every member of the administration who they contacted refused to answer their question.Does a student or staff member going through this process have access to footage that might be exculpatory? [[ Gabi & CPD ]]
– In recent years, it came to light that Columbia was allowing NYPD to spy on and profile Muslim students, to the point that NYPD’s cyber-intelligence unit was receiving a “Weekly MSA Report”. Can information gathered by NYPD surveillance be used in this non-legal, non-criminal procedure? And as a follow up, how can we trust an administration who has allowed NYPD to target our community on the basis of stereotypes and prejudice? [[ MSA question ]]
– In Ben Jealous’ op-ed about the Dean’s Discipline process, he noted that you don’t have the opportunity to introduce witnesses in this hearing. Can we make sure that the ability to introduce witnesses is preserved in the Rules process, and can we push for it in Dean’s Discipline processes? [[GR]]
– What email evidence can be used? Columbia Email Usage Policy states: “For reasons relating to compliance, security or legal proceedings (e.g., subpoenas) or in an emergency or in exceptional circumstances, the Office of the General Counsel may authorize the reading, blocking or deletion of Data. In particular, in the context of a litigation or an investigation, it may be necessary to access Data with potentially relevant information.” How does this policy affect the way the Rules are prosecuted? [[ CPD ]]
– What about information/communications that happen using Columbia University Wi-Fi?
– Section II. a. of the Acceptable Usage of Information Resources Policy states: “The University respects the privacy of individuals and keeps User files and emails on central University Systems as private as possible. However, to protect the integrity of its Information Resources and the rights of all Users, the University reserves the right to monitor access to Information Resources, communications on the University Network and use of Systems and Data, as described in more detail in the Section III(C) of the Charter.
For reasons relating to compliance, security or legal proceedings (e.g., subpoenas) or in an emergency or in exceptional circumstances, the Office of the General Counsel may authorize the reading, blocking or deleting of Data. In particular, in the context of a litigation or an investigation, it may be necessary to access Data with potentially relevant information. Any such action taken must be immediately reported to the Office of the General Counsel and the applicable Information Security Office.”
^^^ WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IN TERMS OF PROSECUTING ALLEGED RULES VIOLATIONS?! [[CPD]]
– The Rules state that you can still be prosecuted even if you receive a warning and stop your activity. Two weeks ago, almost no students on campus knew that these rules existed and they might not realize they’re breaking the rules. If people are warned, realize they may be violating the Rules, and change the way they’re protesting, how can it be fair to prosecute them?
– The Rules also state that you can be prosecuted even if you NEVER receive any warning (Violation #18) how is THAT fair? [[CPD]]
– “Disciplinary matters not specifically enumerated in these Rules are reserved in the case of students to the Deans of their schools or their delegated authorities and to the regulations and mechanisms they have established, and in the case of faculty and staff to the President of the University or his delegated authority and to the regulations and mechanisms that have been established to deal with such matters.” — This is too broad of a reserve clause, since it allows deans or central administration to prosecute for free speech activity that sits outside the Rules. It should be made clear that all conduct related to free speech activity is out of the hands of the deans.
Next Rules Administrator
– Should not be someone in the office of the EVP for Student Affairs, since these Rules apply to students, faculty, and staff!
Turnout Count: 197-200/330
Grad Students: 30-40
On this doc: 67-70
– BCD [Iliana/Amy]:
– BSO [Damon/Alexis]:
– CQA [Caitlin/Brennon]:
– Dems [Austin/Jord/Melissa]:
– GR [Caleb/Chris]: 5
– ISO [Cami]: 12-15
– LUCHA [Shiv/Megan]
– MSA [Yilma]:
– NRT [Becca/Michela]: 10
– SAMI/CPD [Gabi/Damon]: (at least 20ish, but hopefully more!)
– SGB [Mariam]:
– SJP [Shezza]: 8
– SWS [George/Becca]: 12
– Turath [Omar] : 5
Labor [Maida; Faculty House?]:
Unaffiliated friends: 10
Est. Random Turnout: 20
– Republicans: 5
– V Show: 3
– ABC: 5
Greek life: 15