Davis Wright Tremaine Begins Investigation into Feb. 21 Schneebeck Protest

Students voice support for Palestine at SDS' Feb 7 rally Photo Credit: Abi Grebel // ASUPS Photo Services

By Andrew Benoit, Mercer Stauch and Veronica Brinkley

The University of Puget Sound is currently in the process of investigating the action against Rep. Kilmer’s Pierce Lecture on Feb. 21, where multiple campus community members were injured as student activists prevented the Rep. from speaking. Seattle legal firm Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT) was selected by the University to conduct the investigation as an independent third party. Both students and staff are under investigation to determine any wrongdoing. 

 “Our objective is to collect as much information as possible from all perspectives that will allow a thorough and neutral assessment of these events and to provide recommendations and findings to help the university address the concerns that have been raised and provide feedback on relevant university policies, procedures and processes,” DWT said in a statement to The Trail.

  The investigation is likely to take the rest of the semester and has heightened student anxieties over potential punishment for student activists from the University. President Crawford has promised that anyone – student, staff, or faculty – found to have violated University policies will be “held appropriately accountable.”

  Some students, including Students for Democratic Society, are unconvinced that the investigation process will be fair. “These are third parties, but they are not only purchased by the school, they are sponsored by the school,” said Clem Russell (‘26), a member of SDS.

 “And so there is a power dynamic there,” she added

  Due to the confidential nature of the investigation, the University has declined to comment on a great deal. As such, much of what exactly occurred on Feb 21. remains unconfirmed. One of the largest unanswered questions remains what exactly the loud noise was that led to the brief hospitalization of one student and allegedly permanently damaged the hearing of a community member at the event. 

  Theo Snyder, a community member who wears hearing aids, said the noise caused them extreme pain and has potentially permanently affected their hearing. “I can just tell since this happened, it’s harder for me to make out what people are saying. And yeah, it’s just really sad because my life is made very difficult because of my hearing loss,” they said. The University declined to comment on the noise, citing the ongoing investigation. 

  Other lingering questions remain surrounding the campus lockout initiated by Security Services during the protest, which has been heavily criticized as unnecessary and unsafe. The University claimed the action was taken in response to reports of non-student individuals attempting to enter other buildings.

  On Feb. 29, the ASUPS senate unanimously passed a resolution criticizing the University’s response, calling for a public acknowledgement by Security Services of the harm caused by the failure to communicate about the lockdown with the student body. According to Jack Simermeyer(‘24), chair of ASUPS senate, the resolution asserts that “that the harm that was caused wasn’t spoken to” when security shared an initial statement promising to communicate better in the future. 

  Simermeyer also explained that the resolution seeks to acknowledge that liberal arts values and philosophies fostered by classes at this University, such as through the examination of disruptive protest throughout history, should be considered by the administration: “These are the core values that you purport to support and to foster,” he said. “Those are the exact values that give us the space and the courage to create this type of disruption. So we’re always going to fight if that’s the case.”

  Reports of student-staff physical altercations at the event were made by both sides, corroborated by video evidence. President Crawford has highlighted these altercations in his allegations of protester violence. “We’ve received reports from multiple staff members that protesters ignored instructions to stay in the designated areas for the protest, and then assaulted university employees as they attempted to enter into Schneebeck,” he said. Multiple staff members have been accused of initiating physical conflicts with students, including Director of Security Services Dave Ferber. 

  SDS encouraged students not to take part in interviews with the investigation team via an Instagram post, saying that it’s unlikely the school’s investigators will actually listen to student voices. “It’s a little contradictory to assume that our voices will be heard through the school, as we have been quite censored and framed as very untrue things, like antisemitic. Coming from a Jewish perspective, I feel like that’s extremely harmful,” said Lauren Garelick (‘27), a member of SDS. “I think associating our voice with the school to be heard isn’t as productive as refusing their authority to give us a voice,” they added.