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February 19, 2018

Student Government Discusses Disruptive Conduct, Bannon, Emergency Fund at Meeting

Student Government (SG) discussed Steve Bannon’s upcoming appearance and the University’s new process for adjudicating disruptive conduct at its Assembly meeting on Monday.  

SG president and fourth-year Calvin Cottrell announced that SG would be accepting student questions for Bannon at the debate. “Working with the professor that invited Bannon, we’re very excited that student questions will be included,” Cottrell said.  

Questions from students will be accepted through a Google Form which SG will create and promote. Debate moderators will select which questions will be read at the Bannon event. “Who those debate moderators are and when the debate will be held is yet to be determined,” Cottrell said. 

Cottrell was not sure if there are plans to allow professors and community members to submit questions for Bannon. 

Cottrell then introduced fourth-year Max Freedman, SG parliamentarian and a member of the University-wide Standing Committee on Disruptive Conduct, who shared an explanation of the University’s new disciplinary procedures for disruptive conduct. “There is a lot of confusion, I think, because it’s a mysterious committee,” Freedman said, adding that he thought that it was important to clarify the new procedures given the possibility of disruptive protests at the Bannon event. 

Last spring, the Faculty Senate approved a new system for evaluating complaints regarding disruptive conduct following administration pressure to revise the existing process, which had been in place since 1970 but had not been invoked since 1974 due to “cumbersome” procedures. The Bannon event could test the newly-instated centralized disciplinary system.  

Freedman said main points to understand about the new procedures are the inclusion of an informal mediation option and the centralization of the disciplinary process.  

“Things that were already against the rules are still against the rules,” Freedman said.  

He read a University-created list of examples of protest that would not be considered disruptive, including “a spontaneous hour-long demonstration on the Quad… rising during a speaker’s presentation, turning one’s chair around, and sitting with one’s back facing the speaker…[and] standing at the back of the room where a speaker is presenting and holding a large sign.” 

Freedman said there is still challenge in determining whether an action was disruptive. “There’s a grey line there,” he said. “What does it mean to ‘substantially impede’?… So some of those things will have to be sorted out.” 

However, Freedman defended the mission of the committee. “People who are here have an expectation that classes and events that they go to will continue, and there’s also a commitment to be able to have debate,” he said.  

In the question-and-answer portion of Freedman’s presentation, one audience member said that the disruptive conduct process seemed to effectively criminalize student protests. “That’s not the intent of the committee,” Freedman said. 

Following the presentation, SG unanimously voted to approve bylaws for the Emergency Fund, a student-run fund which provides rapid microgrants to students experiencing emergencies that affect their academic careers. The Emergency Fund will now begin accepting grant applications.  

Students from any school or division who pay a student life fee or who are enrolled in classes and are not required by their division to pay a student life fee are eligible to apply. Priority will be given to students applying for the first time who are requesting less than $200, since the fund’s mission is to provide emergency microgrants.

“We’re not here to replace other [emergency funding] sources, but to be one that is a complement and one that is super fast,” said second-year College Council representative Jahne Brown, who drafted the initial resolution proposing the Emergency Fund. “We’re dealing with small amounts of fast funding, so we can’t be the sole source and we don't intend to be."

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