Dear Vice President McMorris and Deans Long and Woodson -
I am writing to express what hundreds are expressing – our outrage at Hampton University’s undertaking disciplinary proceedings against student activists who engaged in peaceful protest at Hampton.
As of this writing, about 450 people have signed the petition to drop disciplinary charges and to change your policies on student protests and demonstrations. In other words, allow free speech on your campus. Many of these signers have given comments. Please read them. You’ll note that many of the signers are from academia.
You may read the petition and comments at http://www.petitiononline.com/Hampton1/petition.html
Traprock Peace Center has also asked some people to let us post their letters to you, or to write public letters of support. You may read these at http://www.traprockpeace.org/hampton_university_students
It is unfathomable that a university, of all places, would cite students for “actions to cajole or proselytize students,” “distributing and/or posting unauthorized information” or “violating the administrative guidelines for student demonstrations.”
Absent legitimate and genuine concerns for public safety, the university – which should encourage free speech and speaking truth to power – should have no business authorizing information distributed by students and it should have limited restrictions (again, limited to safety) concerning demonstrations.
It is shocking to read that campus police booked people who had committed no crimes. Wearing stickers? Looking suspicious? The students describe intimidation and police interference with their interview with a reporter. This is unacceptable.
It is imperative that the University investigate police behavior.
As at other schools this year, students have been subject to disciplinary hearings or charges after others – military recruiters or campus police – have used physical violence or intimidation.
Kent State recently dropped its disciplinary proceedings against a student who had protested peacefully. He had climbed a rock wall (properly so per the recruiters’ procedures) and then unfurled a small peace banner. The recruiters climbed up after him and one grabbed him by the shirt. Yet it was the student who was forced to face university discipline. The recruiters who chased him – causing risk to students and themselves, with one grabbing him – were given a free pass, so to speak. On the night before the hearing, Kent State – after receiving hundreds of calls and emails – dropped the proceedings the night before the hearing.
I urge Hampton University to follow Kent State’s example. I also urge it to investigate the actions of the campus police and any administrators who were involved with campus police actions.
Charles Jenks, attorney at law
Chair of Advisory Board and Web Manager
Traprock Peace Center
103A Keets Road
Deerfield, MA 01342