Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oh, the Trojanity!

Well, UCLA police use tazers to move students. USC threatens to suspend students (giving them 15 minutes to decide, apparently) for your basic college protest. The students at USC were protesting the use of sweatshop labor to create clothes with college logos on it. (UCLA began to insist on fair labor standards for its apparel manufacturers about six years ago). Standard student protest stuff.

I think a combination of entrenched, detached, bloated administrations coupled with the 9/11 syndrome (the new ability of any bureaucrat, public or private, to demand more power and slavish deference to silly rules because "everything changed" after 9/11). A venti latte says that USC will soon say these 15 students were a "security problem." You know, Al Qaeda in West Adams or something. Maybe Kent State was justified after all. They were undermining the war, after all.

Bully for USC in two respects: (1) this may be the first time in ages they've had students with a social conscience out in demonstrations; (2) apparently the student body is not all spoiled rich kids whose parents would raise bloody hell if USC had suspended them.

Morons. No wonder we elected Schwarzenegger...


Raised By Republicans said...

USC probably violated Federal Law by calling the parents. Universities are not allowed to tell parents about the classes students take or the grades they get unless the students sign a release. I think the law is called FERPA. For the USC administration to call the parents of the students in this kind of situation (the students are all adults remember) may be a violation of the students privacy rights.

As for the consequences of civil disobedience, the students probably expected to have to go limp be carried out by campus police. After that, they probably expected that they would be charged with tresspassing or something like that.

Although the UCLA incedent sounds more alarming, the USC situation is probably more clear cut legally. At least in the UCLA situation the UCPD officiers can argue that they were confronted with an angry individual who was resisting their orders and forcing them to use force. We may or may not agree with that argument but it can at least be made. The USC may involve obvious violations of federal law.

Perhaps LTG can fill us in on FERPA and how it relates to USC's actions.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Let me play devil's advocate for a moment... these students were trespassing and illegally disrupting the functioning of the university, so what is wrong with USC trying to get them to leave? Must modern administrations reply only in the way they did in the 1960s--either doing nothing or lobbing tear gas? Is there no in-between? If I were an administrator, I would be sorely tempted to do what USC did: it worked quickly and nobody was hurt. Just saying.

Ren said...

The students were neither trespassing or illegally disrupting the office. The students were in a waiting room outside the President's office which was, and should be, open to anyone. (It was, until the entire building went on lock down the following day and no one can get in. But at the time, it was completely allowed).
The 'disruptions' would theoretically be from the rallying vigil outside... by students not sitting peacefully inside. If they want to charge with disruption, they charged the wrong group.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr. S - do university administrators have the authority to suspend a student for any reason at all? Disciplinary mechanisms exist for a reason: because the relationship between a student and the university is also a contractual one with mutual obligations. Due Process is plain in the public university context, but private universities have also created expectations of fair play. Unless the USC handbook says that summary dismissal is appropriate for the "violation" (which ren correctly identifies not as trespassing or disruption, but as the legal equivalent of overstaying one's welcome), then it is not appropriate.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The Daily Trojan article on the sit-in has some more details. The sit-in was indeed in the reception area, not in the office. Letters of suspension were delivered to the protesters indicating that their presence was disrupting the office, but since the letters were distributed at 5pm, it seems unlikely that they were going to cause much further disruption that day. The daily Trojan said the students were also threatened with eviction from university housing and revocation of scholarships, although they provided no evidence of that.

However, this was not an isolated incident. An earlier report from March indicates that this sme group of protesters have marched into the President's office numerous times over the past semester, chanting, bearing placards, etc. When the protesters complained that the administration would not listen to them, apparently Senior Vice-President Dickey (unfortunate name) said in exasperation, "Are you serious? How many times have I met with you guys?!" Apparently, angry and unpleasan words were spoken by both sides in a late-afternoon meeting immediately preceding the distribution of the suspension letters.

The way I read it, the administrators got fed up and pulled out the big guns in a fit of frustration. They were mean to the protesters and some said they were laughing as the students tried to decide whether to accept the letters of suspension or quit the protest. It just shows that the entire semester of confrontation got totally out of hand. Would the letters have held up in court? Probably not. But the point was to intimidate the students... and for that, the administrators should be ashamed for giving in to their anger. They showed a poor example of leadership.

Ren said...

well said dr. s. I think my favorite part out of the USC Code of Ethics (that was violated) is the following :
We do not harass, mistreat, belittle, harm, or take unfair advantage of anyone. We are careful to distinguish between legal behavior on the one hand and ethical behavior on the other, knowing that, while the two overlap in many areas, they are at bottom quite distinct from each other. While we follow legal requirements, we must never lose sight of ethical considerations.

Dr. Strangelove said...

That USC Code of Ethics reminds me of the old Soviet Constitution: it was larded with eloquent statements about the rights of the people, but it was basically a joke and everyone knew it.

Of course, it is easy for administrators to say they will not, "harass, mistreat, belittle," anyone as a matter of principle... but it is much, much harder for them to keep that promise when they feel that they are being harassed, mistreated, and belittled. While the administration certainly failed to meet that high standard laid out in the Code of Ethics, I feel this should also be a lesson for the protesters: tactics of that rely on contempt and disrespect toward specific people are rarely successful, and bring out the worst those targeted.

Successful protesters follow their own code of ethics and hold themselves to the standards they wish others to follow. Successful protesters know how to channel their anger effectively without giving in to the temptation to be nasty. If you want to teach the administration, you need to lead by example; you cannot urge them to improve their morality (in this case, to take a more aggressive stance on boycotting sweatshop-produced products) when you sacrifice the moral high ground. Gandhi and MLK Jr. understood this. And yes, those are also very hard acts to follow.

Anonymous said...

OK, so let's get this straight. Some students demand to see the University President at USC and they are given 15 minutes to clear out or be kicked out of school

A guy goes nuts at Virginia Tech and kills someone at 7 in the morning and the university waits for 2 hours to go into lock down.

Granted these are completely different events at completely different universities but one would be forgiven for looking at them and wondering at our national priorities.