Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Letter Concerning Student Disciplining from UM Faculty to Administration

Today, the following letter was sent to Vice-President Whitely and Dean Sandler, signed by 110 UM faculty members (names posted in the first comment).

Dear Vice President Whitely and Dean Sandler,

It is with a mixture of indignation, sadness, embarrassment and weariness that we find ourselves forced to write another letter to advocate for justice at the University of Miami.

In the course of the last few months, our students have shown an array of human and civic virtues that one does not see often these days. Through peaceful and respectful demonstrations and with minimal disruption to campus life, they supported the fight for justice and dignity of people they barely knew. Anyone who has spent any time with these young people knows that they are gentle and respectful, that they care deeply about their academic careers, and that they have a keen sense of justice. These are qualities we all unequivocally encourage in our students. As former President Tad Foote told one professor, there was something noble in what these students did and he was proud of them. We agree.

The university administration has responded to the students’ actions on behalf of the janitors and groundskeepers first with harshness, and now with underhanded and petty strategies aimed at thwarting their right to an unbiased and fair hearing. We find this behavior deeply reprehensible and unacceptable at a university. A university is first and foremost about its students. These are our students. These are the people to whom we dedicate the largest part of our professional lives. These young people are the raison d’etre of what we do as faculty, staff, and administrators of this university.

The administration has used some deplorable tactics with the students. They served summonses to them in class, a violation of federal law (the Buckley amendment guarantees a student’s privacy) and of faculty rights as well as a disruption of the academic mission. They called students to "preliminary hearings" about potential serious charges, leaving the possibility of these charges hanging over them through commencement. They also were told that they had an "administrative stop" placed on their registration (in the middle of registration period) and they would have to see Associate Dean Singleton to register for classes. He is not an academic dean. He is their prosecutor and ought not to have anything to do with their registration. Along with the students and their lawyers, we see all of this as intimidation, something that should never take place at a university.

We deeply regret that these students have been targeted for disciplinary action for acting on the principles we teach regarding democracy and social justice. As currently implemented, the process by which they are being judged is profoundly flawed and characterized by arbitrary and unfair decisions. Specifically:

1) Students who pleaded not guilty were denied postponement of their hearings to the Fall, at which time they would appear before a University Disciplinary Hearing Panel including their peers. Instead, Associate Dean Singleton, who is a witness in some of the cases, now serves simultaneously as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury. There are clearly multiple conflicts of interest here, and the students cannot possibly have an impartial hearing. Moreover, by holding the hearings in the summer, the students are deprived of valued advisors and witnesses to support their cases who are out of town. The first summonses were delivered on 21 April, which allowed sufficient time for hearings to take place with a full panel to adjudicate the cases and with supporting witnesses and advisors still on campus. This was not done, however, because the Dean of Students granted his own office a continuance to do additional investigation. How is it possible that the Dean of Students grant one side a continuance to be able to present its best case but not the other? The cards are clearly and purposefully stacked against the students and they cannot possibly have a fair hearing in these circumstances.

2) Some students have now seen added to their previous charges the further charge of unauthorized distribution of printed material. The violation cited from Students’ Rights and Responsibilities Handbook is B.16, which references the Poster Distribution and Advertising policy on p. 47. The policy refers specifically to advertising, and requires the approval of the Vice President for Business Services. The materials distributed by the students were not advertisements but statements relating to social justice. They were acts of free speech and therefore not covered by any advertising policy.

3) The students who pleaded guilty or no contest to the charges brought against them were given absurd and even insulting penalties, including community service. They are being punished precisely because they did hundreds of hours of community service to improve the University and South Florida’s communities by assuring that workers at UM have freedom of choice, the right to work with dignity and respect, and to earn a living wage. Moreover, these students regularly do other community service, working at clinics and homeless shelters, for various environmental and civic groups, etc. And now you are going to punish them by making them do such work? How inappropriate! Adding to this absurdity, students who have graduated or will graduate this summer or fall have been given two semesters of probation. When asked how this affects them, Associate Dean Singleton told these students that this punishment means nothing for them. Then why give it, except to be vindictive? Finally, two students have been singled out for a particularly spiteful punishment: the loss of campus housing in the fall at University Village.
We ask that all students who have been charged with offenses in relation to their peaceful and respectful protests during the janitors’ and groundskeepers’ strike be granted amnesty. We need to be a model of openness and dialogue, a beacon for the free exchange of ideas and true learning. To punish these students is to undercut these fundamental goals.

Respectfully,

2 comments:

fwj said...

Hugo Achugar, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Felipe Agüero, International Studies

David Abraham, Law

Anthony Alfieri, Law

Joseph Alkana, English

Elisabeth Aranda, Sociology

Robin Bachin, History

Bruce Bagley, International Studies

Grace Barnes, Communication

Anthony Barthelemy, English

Linda Belgrave, Sociology

Peter Bellis, English

Barbara Brandon, Law Library

James Britton, English

Gordon Browning, Foreign Languages and Literatures (Emeritus)

Marc Brudzinski, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Steven Butterman, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Leonard Carrier, Philosophy (Emeritus)

Kenneth Casebeer, Law

Daniel Chacon, Latin American Studies

Christina Civantos, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Eugene Clasby, English

Nancy Clasby, English

Jane Connolly, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Frank Corbishley, University Chaplains Association

John Dellagloria, Business Law

Rita Deutsch, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Dan DiResta, Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

Tegan Eve, Chemistry

Simon Evnine, Philosophy

Linda Farmer, Biology

Zanita Fenton, Law

Michael Fischl, Law

Mary Ann Fletcher, Medicine

Kathryn Freeman, English

Michael Froomkin, Law

Evelina Galang, English

Laura Giannetti, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Thomas Goodman, English

Steven Green, Biology

Pat Gudridge, Law

Pamela Hammons, English

Dennis Hansell, Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry

Chris Harrison, Marine Geology and Geophysics

Anthony Hynes, Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry

Joanna Johnson, English Composition

Catherine Judd, English

Roger Kanet, International Studies

Angel Kaifer, Chemistry

Mary Lou King, Medicine

Anthony Krupp, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Celita Lamar, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Christina Lane, Motion Pictures

Rachel Lebon, Music

Jean-Francois LeJeune, Architecture

John Lennon, American Studies

Tomas Lopez, Art and Art History

Peter Luykx, Biology (Emeritus)

Sybil Lipschultz, History

Martha Mahoney, Law

April Mann, English Composition

Lillian Manzor, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Arthur Mariano, Physical Oceanography

Patrick McCarthy, English

Daniel Messinger, Psychology

Michael Miller, History

Ambler Moss, International Studies

John Murphy, Sociology

James Nearing, Physics

JoNel Newman, Law

Ronald Newman, English

Amie Nielsen, Sociology

Victoria Adam Noriega, Psychology

Sandra Oh, English

Ranen Omer-Sherman, English

Martha Otis, English Composition

Frank Palmeri, English

Gema Perez-Sanchez, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Hartmut Peters, Meteorology and Physical Oceanography

Ivan Petrella, Religious Studies

Giovanna Pompele, English

Sherri L. Porcelain, International Studies

Howard Pospesel, Philosophy (Emeritus)

Kate Ramsey, History

Francisco Raymo, Chemistry

Ruth Reitan, International Studies

William Rothman, Communication

Joaquín Roy, International Studies

Rene Sacasas, Business Law

Steven Schnably, Law

Maureen Seaton, Law

Jeffrey Shoulson, English

Harvey Siegel, Philosophy

William Smith, International Studies

Carl Snyder, Chemistry (Emeritus)

Mihoko Suzuki, English

Don Spivey, History

Steve Stein, ­­­­­­­­­­­­­History

Peter Tarjan, Biomedical Engineering

Bonnie Taylor, Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry

Hugh Thomas, History

Claret Vargas, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Keith Waddington, Biology

Robert Warren, Cell Biology and Anatomy

Tim Watson, English

Richard Weiskoff, International Studies

Benjamin Webb, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Jonathan West, Political Science

Barbara Woshinsky, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Kamal Yacoub, Electrical Engineering

fwj said...

Tracy Devine Guzman, Foreign Languages and Literatures
Tassie Gwilliam, English
Robert Rosen, Law
Burak Kazaz, Business
Lindsay Tucker, English