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Letter to the Editor regarding the UPS3

*Disclaimer: A letter to the editor was submitted to The Trail from a group of faculty, and is printed below. Letters to the editor do not represent the official position of The Trail or of individual staff members, but instead are a way for members of our community to share their ideas with our audience. If you wish to submit a letter for our consideration or have feedback for us, please send your thoughts to trail@pugetsound.edu. Letters which you would like to run in print need to be 500 words or less.*

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January 1, 2017

Mike Segawa

Dean of Students

University of Puget Sound

Dear Dean Segawa,

We write in support of the three students and their appeal of the sanctions determined in the

letter from Associate Dean Chee on December 20, 2016. Andres Chavez, Akilah Sandoval

Bailey, and Lydia Gebrehiwot (hereafter referred to as “the students” unless otherwise

indicated) have asked us to write in support of their appeal, and we have enthusiastically done

so.

We are in the middle of a historical social, economic, and political juncture that has brought

much anxiety to our students, the country, and our global society as to what will be the future of

our country. The growth in hate crimes around college campuses and around the country have

been increasing in the last few years. Moreover, for some, the recent presidential election

results have not only legitimized hate but-– it has encouraged groups to attack academic

freedom through lists aimed to censure critical research and pedagogy that does not align with

their political philosophy. History has informed us of the perniciousness of such acts and by no

means do we condone them.

At University of Puget Sound we live in a bubble, but students (and faculty and staff) of color live

both in the bubble and out of the bubble. The college is surely changing, trying to address

issues of race, gender, sexuality, transphobia, and so on, but our rate of change does not match

the rapid and much needed exposure and unveiling of real world bias and hate. Black Lives

Matters focused around recent deaths of black men at the hands of police. As a phenomenon,

police killing black men is not new at all, but in a digital world with smart phone technologies and

online news, the problems are now forced on culture’s awareness, with recorded and

disseminated images of such incidents widely circulated. In many ways these students are

actually ahead of faculty and administration in terms of seeing, understanding, and reacting to

the injustices and changing social terrains of our culture. The speed of change and challenge

does not, as you well know, mean that we are all necessarily maturing at a faster pace as well.

Our students of color are more aware than most of us of the reality that we are not post-racial,

and that so many injustices remain – both on campus and in our society more generally. The

students are clearly not a threat. Indeed, the students are among the most active civically

engaged students on campus, representing the ideals of our mission statement, fully

participating members of the Pierce County Young Democrats, and foundational members on

campus of the cohort of students who banded together around various social justice causes to

become Advocates for Institutional Change.

We faculty members have had many serious, thoughtful, reasonable, and reflective

conversations with Lydia, Akilah, and Andres since the posting of the flyers. We stand by their

character, including their infinite ability to be educated – and to educate.

PROCEDURE

The procedural errors for the process regarding the students are vast. We are taking the liberty

here to speak broadly, remembering the university’s Integrity Principle. In one sense, there

were certainly attempts to follow routine procedure, and attempts to adapt to student requests,

but overall the procedural element of this case has been a university-wide failure with

responsibility shared by faculty, administration, and the students. While we have not listened to

the audio file or acted as formal advisors, the students have provided background summaries of

the investigation, conduct meetings, and major hearing that sound chaotic (fire alarm, conflicting

administrative claims about when the students received the list of charges, administrative claims

that students must prove innocence, different administrative definitions of a “business day,”

conflicting answers about whether a lawyer could be present, various contestations about note

taking and the recording of times and breaks of meetings, an apparent refusal to allow students

to present evidence at the Combined Administrative Meeting, an administrative refusal to

answer a request to have clarification of the charges and definitions supplied, and so on and so

on). Presumably the students’ appeal request will offer more detail, but it’s not hard to imagine

that the meetings did not go well. Indeed, the meetings and hearings seemed to reach a

crescendo in the December 7 Combined Administrative Meeting. The meeting was cut short

(administrative folks showed up late, the room was not available, the fire alarm, a requested

break that was then shortened). It also seems strange to only allow and schedule one hour for

three students facing such serious charges. Additionally, we would urge you to consider

whether the atmosphere was not more hostile than it needed to be. That is perhaps a minor

point, but the meeting did not allow for a fuller discussion. At least one of the students has told

us they intended to discuss their involvement with the posters and engage a discussion of facts,

but because of the nature of the meeting they not only ran out of time, but subsequent to the

meeting they were doubtful of the hearing officer’s ability to hear them and to work with them

impartially. The students were offered another meeting during finals week, but declined to meet

again with Associate Dean Chee, citing in their statement of December 14, 2017:

We do not feel comfortable with Debbie Chee as our hearing officer due to her behavior

during the hearing last week on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. The multitude of

violations of our rights have [sic] compromised this investigation and we do not feel

comfortable going through with the process on these terms.

As far as we know the students did not make an official complaint about this, but we also

wonder whether any administrative discussion ensued regarding options to engage the students

(even if their lack of confidence was deemed a matter of perception), or whether there was a

response to the students that would encourage them to engage. If not, that would seem to be a

failure. Again, we imagine that from a technical point of view Dean Chee could disregard the

idea that she might recuse herself or decide not to have an exchange with the students about

their concerns for a venue that they could more comfortably discuss the case, and that she

could immediately move to apply sanctions without any further hearings (which the students

wanted). And that seems to be the sequence: there was no response to the students’ written

statement, and the sanctions letter from Dean Chee was delivered December 20. Is there a

written record (or other record) that indicates how these student concerns were addressed, what

alternatives were considered?

Before we move on to other mitigating elements, it seems to us that charging the students with

a “Standard One” Harassment charge was procedurally questionable, if not a clear procedural

error. The students shared with us the December 20, 2016 letter relaying proposed sanctions.

The letter from Associate Dean of Students Deborah Chee states that the students were found

responsible for harassment as a “standard one” violation:

Standard One: A member of the Puget Sound community must not harm someone

physically or psychologically, or cause them to fear being harmed.

We can now see why the students sought clarification of the charges in advance. The students

were held to be “not responsible” for Threat or Destructive Behavior at the Standard One level.

The Integrity Code further defines Standard One of the Integrity Code as:

This includes but is not limited to physical assault, rape, sexual assault, physical,

psychological or sexual harassment, hazing, or any related activities aimed at any

member of the university or the community at large. Also prohibited is any conduct,

including racial, ethnic, or sexual discrimination, threatening remarks or gestures which

are directly and specifically intended for another individual or group. Behavior of this

type, which interferes with the opportunity of any member or group of members of the

university community to attain their educational goals is prohibited. Intentional actions or

destructive behavior which undermines another’s basic dignity or self-esteem are also

contrary to the Standard and are prohibited.

If the students were not determined to have threatened anyone or to exhibit Standard One

Destructive Behavior, how could they be responsible for Standard One Harassment? There

definitely needs to be clarification regarding “harassment” in this case, especially as the

examples mostly reflect clear physical forms of unquestionably unacceptable behavior (physical

assault, rape, and sexual assault), followed by “physical, psychological or sexual harassment”.

We fear that Dean Chee has misapplied the code here. Does she contend that the

“harassment” she thinks the students are responsible for is a form of “psychological”

harassment? But if that’s the case, she must be misreading: the psychological harassment

referred to must be on the level of physical and sexual harassment, implying extreme action and

intent.

Indeed, the use of “harassment” as a Standard One charge is further confused when one

notices and considers that it is never used in this way in the university’s “discriminatory

harassment reports” compiled by the Harassment Reporting Officers (for example, the report for

2015-2016: http://www.pugetsound.edu/files/resources/hro-2015-161.pdf), but is only mentioned

in cases of sexual harassment or discriminatory harassment. Those uses would seem to be

more consistent with standard understandings of harassment and with the university definition

of harassment as found in the general Campus Policy Prohibiting Harassment & Sexual

Misconduct which cites two forms of harassment: discriminatory harassment and sexual

harassment. Discriminatory harassment is defined there in the standard manner as “conduct of

any type (e.g., oral, written, graphic, or physical) directed against a person (or group of persons)

because of his or her (or their) race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, disability, marital

or familial status, sexual orientation, veteran or military status, gender identity or any protected

characteristic, which is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive as to limit or deny a student’s

ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or a faculty, staff or student staff

member’s ability to perform or participate in a work environment.”

There seems to be no basis for charging students with Standard One “Harassment” (or any form

of harassment), much less finding them “Responsible.” The procedural error of misapplying a

charge is significant and severely impacted the investigation, the hearings and meetings, and

the deliberation of sanctions in the proceedings. It is with good reason that the students

requested clarification of the charges and definitions. At least one outcome is clear: the Integrity

Code needs to be clarified and brought into alignment with the more general use of

“harassment” in university policy documents.

SANCTIONS

We have engaged in numerous discussions of the case with faculty, students, and

administration and have yet to encounter a single individual who feels the sanctions are not

unjust and disproportionate. Sexual assault does not seem comparable in any way to posting

flyers with people’s identities. If these conduct offences are viewed as equal, then perhaps

there is cause for a procedural concern as well, not just concerns regarding appropriate

sanctions.

Harassment Reporting Officers Reports provide clear evidence of the of the disproportionality of

the sanctions:[2]

· 2013 (August to December) There was one report of multiple incidents of sexual assault by

a student that was under investigation. There was one violation of a No Contact Order

stemming “from a previous sexual misconduct incident in 2011. The complaint was resolved

informally. Outcomes included Conduct Probation II, and several educational sanctions.”

Reports of student harassment by students all appear to have been resolved informally, with the

harshest result being a no-contact order.

· 2014, January to June contains reports of several sexual misconduct cases, none of which

resulted in expulsion or suspension (no contact orders, probation, educational components were

the norm). Two cases of non-physical harassment (numbers 18 and 19 in the report) were

cited. In one case sanctions for three students included Conduct Reprimand to Conduct

Probation Level 2, No Contact Orders, letters of apology, and educational components. A

second case was informally resolved with a conversation. No suspensions or expulsions

reported.

· In 2014 (August to December) cases of harassment resulted in a wide range of

conclusions, from informal resolution, no contact orders, probation, to expulsion. All cases

seemed to involve sexual harassment and/or assault. No cases of student non-physical

harassment of students were reported.

· The 2015-2016 Harassment Reporting Officer Report cites 105 cases. There appear to be

no cases in which a student non-physical harassment of students or other non-physical action

resulted in suspension. In incident #3 from the report there is one clear example of non-physical

harassment regarding Twitter account postings that appeared racist (of course this is an

example of “discriminatory harassment”). The incident was resolved with the student erasing the

comments and apologizing to the students. In another report (#45) threats to persons and

property were made as a result of a racist comment; apparently no suspension or sanctions

resulted as the HRO document states: “The matter was addressed by Residence Life.” Some

cases (52, 58, 63, 72, 88, 99, and 103, for example) reveal incidents of physical conduct or

physical forms of harassment that resulted in resolutions short of suspension, including:

“addressed by Residence Life,” Conduct Probation and educational sanctions, Restorative

Justice process, residential relocation, revoking residence hall access, informal resolution

including alcohol assessment and educational assignments.

The overwhelming sense of disproportionality is clear. In many cases of physical harm, threat,

harassment and sexual misconduct, the resolution did not include suspension. On the other

hand, it appears from the HRO Reports that at no time were students suspended or expelled as

a result of non-physical actions, harms, or what might be viewed as harassment.

If the charge of Harassment is not deemed procedurally in error (for the reasons stated above),

then the sanctions should be considered disproportionate in any case. If clear and

unambiguous instances of sexual harassment or assault can result in resolutions

without suspension, how can a far more ambiguous charge of non-physical or nonsexual

harassment (especially having determined there was no Threat or Destructive

Behavior) result in suspensions of such proportions?

CONCLUSION

We all need to be concerned about the outcome of the appeal. Yes, the students are

passionate. They have grown tremendously from critiques they have learned on campus,

through campus life, but also from real world experience. The students have modeled for us the

continuing work of transformation, and the willingness to learn from mistakes. Now is the time

to include ourselves as well in the educative process, to be equally reflective – will faculty,

administration, and the entire academic community be able to learn from this event? What will

we learn? The three students and their outcomes reflect our own potential for transformation.

Without any sense of exaggeration, the three students are our own future.

In advocating for institutional change and seeking some future justice now, the students were

scandalous and untimely.

To ban these three students from campus – at this moment – would be to silence the voices of

struggle that we most need at this moment. Not just their voices, but all of the voices for

substantive transformation that we all need now.

Dean Segawa, we feel strongly that no sanctions should be applied. We urge you to

implement an educative and restorative justice process that will benefit the entire

campus, not just the students considered here, and an investigation into what happened

and why, and an opportunity for the Puget Sound community to grow from this event.

The Integrity Code calls for civility. We agree, and would suggest that racism, sexual

misconduct, homophobia, are uncivil behaviors and suspect that there is little disagreement on

this. So in this instance, now, we have to ask the question – whose civility is being considered

and protected? The faculty “Open Letter” warns us that “respectability politics and its supporting

practices of civility and decorum in institutions like ours have served as masks for the

preservation of injustice …” We agree with that critique and wait with so many members of the

community – and especially our students of color and the many students who have reached out

to them – to see whether this difficult moment will move us in the direction of a more inclusive

and just community or if it will serve as a mask.

A colleague recently presented the situation directly and beautifully in an email:

The message we are sending to our students of color is that we will include them only if

they perform in ways we approve and if they acquiesce to the discrimination they face.

We are telling them that what we care most about is the appearance of civility rather

than accusation and discord.

… The impact of this action [sanctions] will cause damage that may take years to

overcome.

Finally, we have to seriously ask ourselves what we deem more pertinent, being

anonymously labeled racist, or racism on our campus? We must ask this of all the

accusations; are we more concerned with being labeled sexist, xenophobic, homophobic

or transphobic than the actual sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia on our

campus. And to the student’s facebook post, are we seriously concerned with the rape

culture and sexual assault present on our campus?

I fear this action may cause irreparable harm to our students of color. We have to do

better.

The December 20, 2016 sanctions letter from Assoc. Dean Chee states:

“The Conduct Suspension is instituted to provide you with a period away from the

university during which you may be reconciled to the university community’s values and

goals.”

We, the writers of this letter of support and other faculty members, must insist that the university

community’s values and goals are not represented by these sanctions, and that it is primarily

the university community as a whole that needs to be reconciled not just these three

outstanding students, students who may have overstepped in their passion for justice and

transformation, but nevertheless did so in pursuit of the values we hold dear, actions that

actually reflect the university mission statement, pursuing justice where the campus community

has failed.

It is clear to us, the faculty signing this letter – through conversations and exchanges with the

students – that the students have truly struggled to understand the different and critical

perspectives of their actions. Throughout these many conversations during the last months we

have never doubted the spirit and intent of their actions to help make the university a better,

safer, more welcoming community and campus for all people. Indeed, when examining our

“Integrity Principle” we can agree that the university is trying to address the flaws and harm that

always already exists in the community; that the students were working for justice within a

system that works well for some, and not so well for others. Hence, the broad recognition that

institutional racism is a reality in much of our culture and can be identified as part of our

community as well. We realize that your offices, Dean Segawa, are not directly responsible for

the tasks of “reconciling” a community subject to racism, but would like to suggest that this case

(and especially the sanctions), particularly reflect the dangers of ignoring the broad context and

history of our campus and the slow progress we are making.

We urge you to dismiss the sanctions and the charge of Harassment.

If there is any way we can further support the students, or assist the process and your office

going forward, please do not hesitate to be in touch with us.

Respectfully submitted,

Oriel Siu, Director, Latina/Latino Studies

Stuart Smithers, Chair, Department of Religious Studies

Edwin Elias, Sociology and Anthropology

Jason Struna, Sociology and Anthropology

Juli McGruder, Emerita Distinguished Professor

Jonathan Stockdale, Department of Religious Studies

ADDENDA

The following materials might represent new evidence. Regardless, these items reflect some of

the reports and narratives of frustration with our systems that led to the student action.

Kaitlyn Meyer

December 21, 2016 at 10:06pm ·

LONG POST REGARDING PETITION!!

First, I want to thank everyone for their kind words and messages I have received since posting. I

appreciate all of you and am so blessed to have you all in my life.

Second, I want to clarify some things as some people are confused.

Last Spring, I filed 2 sexual misconduct charges through the University of Puget Sound against my

rapist, there was a full investigation done (which the school mishandled by asking witnesses

questions completely irrelevant to the incident in question) and a hearing was held this past

September. At the hearing, the board found my rapist “not responsible” stating that there was not

enough evidence to prove that my memory of the night was “more than likely true”. But the board

was sure to include they “do not wish to discount Ms. Meyer’s memory and experiences”. He

received no consequences for raping me. He is still on campus, living his life without issue while I

couldn’t stay because of the anxiety of knowing he would be there.

Since I left UPS, there was a list posted of people and actions they have done to hurt others on

campus but no punishment was done through the school, my rapists name was included. The

students who made the list were expelled from campus.

I feel it is unfair that these students, who felt unprotected by their administration so much so they

had to take their own stand, aren’t allowed on campus while my rapist walks freely around it.

Thank you for all of you who read this and continue to support me through it all![3]

Haile Canton[4]

University of Puget Sound students, staff, alumni, faculty and family:

I’m sure you all have heard about the #UPS3 by now. Whether you agree with the list or not, the issue at hand is due

process. The students have been suspended/banned from campus for 3 years for posting a list identifying individuals

as racist, rapists, and more. This is the most severe punishment I have ever heard about for the university, and it’s

completely ridiculous.

As someone who has fought with UPS many times, I’m frustrated that something like this has been given such a

harsh punishment. I was harrassed and discriminated against due to my disability and race by faculty during my time

there. I went through BHERT proceedings, and NOTHING was done in regards to the harassers. This was not a one

time thing, nor was it just faculty. I was harrassed by students who were supposed to be my peers and called out of

my name on many occasions. Although I had witnesses and proof, nothing was done to stand up for me as a person

of color on campus.

I’ve just spoken with someone at the university who has said that writing letters about your experience with the

system that is conduct and it’s failure to promote due process and justice is the best thing we can do right now. If you

have experiences that you can speak to about when the conduct process has given a small slap on the wrist to

someone who has been found guilty of their crime, PLEASE write an email to Sarah Comstock. She may not respond

to your email, but the emails will be taken into consideration in regards to any possible appeals and changing the

conduct system for the university as a whole.

From the South Seattle Emerald[5] (January 3, 2017):

“The students contend that they have not yet had the opportunity to present evidence.

Chavez also pointed to an incident that was published anonymously in a student magazine,

Incite. The author describes a normalized harassment of people of color by security:

I have been harassed, profiled, and vehicularly stalked beyond campus boundaries while riding

in cars with other people of color. Alone, security cars have followed me home, a security car

has waited outside of my residence watching the building from the other side of a parking lot,

and I have been haggled just emptying the trash at night. Constantly asked whether I’m a

student and whether I live on campus.

The anonymous author would go on to claim they experienced similar treatment on campus

more than five times.”

[2] HRO Reports accessed here, January 1, 2017: http://www.pugetsound.edu/about/officesservices/

human-resources/policies/campus-policies/campus-policy-prohibitinghara/

harassment-reporting-officers/hro-reports/

[3] Accessed 1/2/2017: https://www.facebook.com/kaitlyn.meyer?fref=ts

[4] Accessed January 4, 2017: https://www.facebook.com/amanda.diaz.946?fref=ts

[5] Accessed January 5, 2017: https://southseattleemerald.com/2017/01/03/the-case-of-theuniversity-

of-puget-sound-three/

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