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University Letter On ‘Disciplinary Outcomes’ Sent To St. Mary’s Protesters

Updated Dec. 20, 7:24 p.m.: Barbara Jones, vice president of student affairs, released an open letter to the Boston College community on Friday to address last Tuesday’s “die-in” protest at St. Mary’s Hall.

In addition to recapping the recent protests on campus—both those that were permitted by the University and those that were not—the letter indicated that the initial request for a permit to host the die-in on Dec. 9 was withdrawn by the students who submitted the request.

“On December 8, a group of students from the Black Student Forum (BSF) asked the dean’s office for a permit to host an event on the following day,” Jones wrote. “Contrary to reports, that permit was not denied, but rather was withdrawn by the BSF.”

The letter also stated that the potential sanctions for students who participated in the unauthorized die-in that ultimately took place at St. Mary’s would likely amount to a warning.

“The University anticipates that in most cases the sanction will be a warning along with a formative educational exercise,” the letter said.

Moreover, Jones reiterated the administration’s concern that the die-in was staged at St. Mary’s, the private residence of the Jesuits, and encouraged students to continue attending her office hours on Friday afternoons to discuss matters further.

Also on Friday, an open letter signed by over 80 BC faculty and alumni was distributed, expressing these individuals’ disappointment over the potential sanctions for die-in protesters. By Saturday evening, over 230 faculty and alumni had signed the letter.

“Civil action, in fact, should be disruptive,” the letter said. “If a protest never causes inconvenience, it stands little chance of raising awareness and, more so, altering the conditions that made the protest necessary.”

The letter goes on to applaud students for their decision to protest at St. Mary’s.

“As faculty and alumni, we are enlivened by the students’ decision to stage the protest next to the home of the Jesuits on our campus. The Jesuit tradition has a long and laudable history of pursuing social justice in intellectual, personal, ethical, and religious formation and bringing that perspective to others. Boston College should be proud that  its students are strengthening that tradition rather than stifling their efforts. By forming a physical presence to educate others about gross miscarriages of justice, their protest is squarely in keeping with  the Jesuit tradition.”

On Monday afternoon, a letter was sent to several participants of Tuesday’s “die-in” protest in St. Mary’s Hall, indicating protesters would be “subject to possible disciplinary outcomes.” Written by Richard DeCapua, associate dean of Student Conduct, the email was received by student demonstrators around 2 p.m. The following text was provided to The Heights by Danny De Leon, a participant in the demonstration and A&S ’15:

Please know that all of us at Boston College understand that there is great anger over recent events in Ferguson, Staten Island and elsewhere that have caused much pain in our community. It has been a trying time for us as a nation as we grapple with these issues. We realize that some of you are also frustrated with members of the BC community who may not share your viewpoints, or have chosen not to express their views [sic] publically.

DeCapua’s email continues:

The University has an obligation to uphold policies and procedures, and to hold students accountable when they violate them. Accordingly, I am writing to inform you that based on your alleged actions you are subject to possible disciplinary outcomes. Section 5.4.1 allows us to have meetings where the goal is not only to examine behavior that may have been a violation of our Code, but also create a space for appropriate discourse and dialogue.

The letter goes on to confirm an earlier report that protesters will be subject to disciplinary action for the alleged trespassing of St. Mary’s Hall and violation of a University policy requiring a permit for protest on campus. According to DeCapua, the newly renovated St. Mary’s is considered to be private property, as it is leased out to the Jesuits.

DeCapua also mentioned in the letter that the University granted several permits for protests prior to the “die-in” on Tuesday, including one for a “Rights on the Heights” rally in O’Neill Plaza on Dec. 5 and another for similar “die-in” that took place at the Boston College Law School on Newton Campus.

DeCapua requested that students meet with him as soon as possible, and no later than the first week of classes of spring semester.

A1 Editor Julie Orenstein contributed to this report.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

December 15, 2014