The University launched an investigation on Friday to determine whether members of Columbia Divest for Climate Justice who interrupted a BP event on campus last week violated the Rules of University Conduct.
This will mark the first time a student protest has triggered an investigation under the rules, the disciplinary code used to adjudicate protests on campus, since they were revised in October. Last February, members of No Red Tape received letters that warned they may have broken the rules after they interrupted admissions information sessions, but ultimately were not investigated.
At the BP event, which was hosted by the Center for Global Energy Policy last Tuesday in the International Affairs Building, seven members of CDCJ read statements condemning BP for what they called the company's abuse of workers, human rights, and the environment.
The rules state 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." Such a violation is considered a "simple" offense.
Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg, who serves as the University's rules administrator, sent separate emails to CDCJ organizers Caroline Lee and Amy Wang, both CC '18. The emails explained that the investigation was triggered by a complaint, according to documents posted on the organizers' Facebook pages.
Lee and Wang did not respond to Spectator's request for comment, but a CDCJ member told Spectator that the other students who disrupted the event received similar letters. Goldberg's office also did not respond immediately to request for comment.
Any member of the University community can file a complaint with the rules administrator, alleging that the rules were violated. When the rules administrator receives such a complaint, she may choose to dismiss it or to launch an investigation.
Goldberg's email marks the first step of such an investigation. According to the rules, she will next "conduct interviews and will gather pertinent information and documentation." After Goldberg investigates the complaint, she may either file a charge asserting the student violated the rules, resolve the case informally, or decline to file charges.
Should Goldberg file a charge, the respondent may accept responsibility, which would move the process into the sanctioning stage, or decline responsibility, which would compel a hearing.
In the event that charges are filed for this case, the University Judicial Board—a five-person panel comprised of administrators, faculty, and students—would adjudicate and sanction for the first time. The board was created when the rules were reviewed and revised, replacing the role of a single hearing officer.
Members of the UJB were appointed by the University Senate executive committee, though part of the appointment process was met with resistance from activists—including members of CDCJ—who criticized the process for a lack of transparency.
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