Brown to Discipline Divestment Activists
Following a marathon hearing last Thursday, 20 Brown University students are awaiting possible disciplinary action for their February divestment protest that disrupted a university corporation meeting.
The University Council of Student Affairs, composed of student, faculty and deans, will announce the students' punishment on Monday, almost one month after the protest, which caused the corporation meeting to be moved to another location.
Brown's Disciplinary Review Board is prosecuting the students, one of whom is Amy Carter, for behavior "unreasonably disruptive of the university community" and "behavior which can necessarily be expected to cause physical harm to persons or damage to property," according to a letter the board distributed to the accused students.
University officials have refused to issue any public statements concerning the protest or the 12-hour open hearing that took place Thursday night and early Friday morning. Brown's dean of student life, John M. Robinson, was unavailable for comment and would be until Monday, his office said.
During the protest, which occurred at the corporation's February 13 meeting, about 40 to 50 Brown students entered the room and read a statement to corporation members demanding that the issue of divestment be placed on the agenda.
In addition, the protesters asked that the corporation divest of its stocks in companies doing business in South Africa, said senior Rebecca M. Zeigler, a spokesman for the charged students.
University President Howard Swearer adjourned the meeting and moved it in order to avoid the students' interference. Robinson presented a piece of paper to the protesters and asked those who wanted to take responsibility for their action to sign, said Joshua Ravitz, managing editor of The Brown Daily Herald.
The 20 students who signed the sheet, and not the 20 to 30 students who declined to sign the sheet, are the ones who face charges of disruption. The students were not protesting as part of one united pro-divestment group, but rather as individuals, said Zeigler, who is a member of the Brown Students Against Apartheid.
The protesters, who could be expelled from the university, said they believed that the way the university has taken action against them is extreme.
The protesters are surprised at the gravity of the punishment they could face because their protest was non-violent, she said.
Zeigler said that there had been "acts of recial violence" on Brown's campus that the administration had treated in a more forgiving way. The protesters have received support from students because of their "concern for the moral character of the University," she said.
The protesters claim to have garnered more than 1000 student signatures of student support, Ravitz said. In addition, newly elected Rhode Island Senator Ray Rickman awarded the students with certificates of commendation last Thursday, Zeigler said.
Zeigler said she feared that the issue of divestment was being overshadowed by the clamor over Brown's disciplinary action.
But still, she said, the nature of the punishment Brown gives the students is important. "There's been a trend in university policy. The university is trying to clamp down on student activism," she said. "Last night's [hearing] was just another example of that."