Some students who participated in the protest last week at Lerner are being threatened by members of Columbia administration with possible disciplinary action such as expulsion and suspension. The students were protesting Columbia University College Republicans’ event for which they hosted British speaker Tommy Robinson. Robinson is known for his fascist and white supremacist ideologies and past, which sparked protest by hundreds of students on campus. The students under the threat are some of those who entered the auditorium where the event was taking place.
One student shared an email they, along with others, received from Suzanne Goldberg, the Rules Administrator and Executive Vice President of University Life at Columbia on Friday. The email asked the students to schedule a disciplinary hearing on either Monday, October 16th or Tuesday, October 17th. In the email, Goldberg said that she is “beginning an investigation” based on a “complaint regarding your involvement in an interruption of a guest speaker at Columbia on October 10, 2017.”
The students in question are under investigation for possible violation of two of the Rules of University Conduct. One of the rules, Section 443(a) (13), is a “simple” violation. It says that a “person is in violation of these Rules when such person individually or with a group, incident to a demonstration…briefly interrupts a University function.” The second rule, Section 443(a) (14), is relevant when someone “disrupts a University function,” and is considered a “serious” violation. Goldberg did not specify what any possible disciplinary action might look like, but “serious” violations as she referred to carry the possibilities of suspension and expulsion.
A petition has been formed that demands these students receive no disciplinary action from the University. The petition was posted under the name “Students Against White Supremacy,” and is signed “students of Columbia University.” It has not been affiliated with any particular students or student groups, and no student groups have come out as organizations in support of it as of yet.
Update, October 16 2017, 1:13PM
The administration defended its decision to allow the event to occur despite knowing there would be resistance. They argued that free speech should be afforded to all, even those we don’t agree with.
A student who received the email threatening disciplinary action said that “free speech is a human right only until the point where it starts taking away that right from others.” The student, who got a ticket to the event before it happened, felt that “the Columbia Administration, by giving this man a platform to speak and now threatening protesters with disciplinary action, is again denying us this right [free speech].” The protesters who entered the event were planning a silent protest once inside, but quickly some back-and-forth began between the protesters and Robinson.