Boston College has sent a letter threatening “disciplinary outcomes’’ to 21 students involved in a die-in on campus last Tuesday. The students were protesting two recent grand jury decisions not to indict policemen responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY, respectively; the die-in was also meant to pressure the university to formally condemn both decisions. There had been several protests on campus in the past few weeks that the university found no fault with, so why was this one different?
Because they didn’t get a permit, according to the letter sent to the protestors. BC students must first obtain permission before they’re allowed to protest or organize, according to the Code of Student Conduct. Boston College’s newspaper, The Heights, reported that the die-in was originally organized by the Black Student Forum, but when they couldn’t secure the correct permit due to university restrictions, they called off the event.
Students and faculty still showed up despite the cancellation—those who did were unaffiliated with any group or club on campus. They lay on the floor of St. Mary’s Hall, some with “I Can’t Breathe’’ written on duct tape over their mouths (a reference to Garner’s last words while being choked to death by policeman Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island on July 17), some holding hands.
“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 our community…Nevertheless, University policy, which applies equally to all students, requires a permit for authorized demonstrations and requires that these demonstrations be held peacefully on University property,’’ Dean Richard DeCapua wrote in the letter sent to students.
The Heightsspoke to Danny DeLeon, a student who received a disciplinary letter:
“We as students are trying to have our voices heard on a few issues that we believe that the administration is not talking openly about and also in terms of censorship that is happening on campus, and the rules and the hoops that we have to jump through to actually make some sort of change on campus and actually be the activists that this University wants us to be.’’
The student paper also quoted student Zack Muzdakis:
“I think it’s absurd,’’ when asked about the police involvement. “I think we have the right to be in there just as much as any other person. It’s an act of peaceful protest, it’s free speech.’’
St. Mary’s Hall is the home of Boston College’s Jesuit community, and had been undergoing renovations since 2012. While students protested there in silence, the sounds of “Peace on Earth’’ drifted in from a concert being held in the newly opened chapel.
The Jesuits were set to move back into the hall on Tuesday and the protest delayed their plans, though were able to complete the move once it ended, according to DeCapua.
Because they acted without a permit they are being summoned to DeCapua’s office for “Conversational Resolutions,’’ meetings that follow the same procedures as administrative hearings without sanctions being issued. However, according to Section 5.4.1 of the Code states that “educational referrals and formative sanctions may still be assessed.’’
“A traditional sanction would be a suspension or probation. An educational referral would be something like writing a paper or doing research on a topic—a lot of times educational referrals are for issues related to alcohol. A formative sanction is specific to Boston College because of the Jesuit mission program; it’s where a student is assigned to talk to other students and staff members to increase dialogue surrounding an issue,’’ DeCapua told Boston.com.
Last Tuesday’s BC die-in comes in the wake of several protests in Boston over the past few weeks, including today’s walk-out by Boston Public School students and the protest on the Boston Common the day after the Eric Garner grand jury decision not to indict.