After receiving sanctions for unregistered protest activities, two members of Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC) are appealing their disciplinary probation status, arguing that the University conduct system wrongly adjudicated their cases. Sissi Liu, A&S ’17, and Bobby Wengronowitz, GA&S ’19, received disciplinary probation after last month’s unregistered vigil for climate change hosted by CJBC.
Liu received a warning after the die-in in St. Mary’s Hall in December, and another after the vigil, which she says she did not attend. She believes that she received probation because she was marked as an organizer for CJBC after she applied for the permit for the Rights on the Heights Rally in December.
“The term ‘organizer’ is very ambiguous and problematic in itself,” Liu said. “CJBC has a flat structure—everyone is an organizer.”
According to Liu, the vigil was not awarded a permit because CJBC is not a registered student organization, and because the weather was bad that day. Though Liu did apply for CJBC’s right to protest in December, she did not apply for the permit for the vigil herself. Four members of CJBC received disciplinary action for the vigil. Richard DeCapua, the associate dean for student conduct, said that because the event was unpermitted, organizers would face repercussions.
“I was not even there,” she said. “I didn’t even attend the event because I had class at 3. So I went at 2:55, and snapped a picture, and said hi to a few people, and did a chant, and then ran to class. So I am not officially associated with this event in any fashion whatsoever.”
Last semester, 21 students received letters regarding potential disciplinary action after the die-in. At least two of these students, however, were not at the die-in, according to Liu. Wengronowitz was told that he was put on disciplinary probation because he was seen as having had an organizing role in the climate change vigil. Wengronowitz, who believes that the vigil should have been permitted, was given two reasons that it was not: CJBC is not an RSO and there were liability concerns. He plans to appeal based on the claim that the vigil should have been permitted.
“I want to be clear, I was punished because I tried to follow the rules,” he said in an email. “That is, I was punished because I had informed the Dean of Conduct’s office that we intended to carry-out the protest, even though we did not receive the permit.”
The policy outlined in section four of the BC student guide states, “The Dean reserves the right to determine the time and place of any public demonstration. Participation in a demonstration without prior authorization could result in conduct action.”
“Participation can be defined as planning/organizing an event, physically participating in an event, and/or both,” DeCapua said in an email.
Liu said that this disciplinary action was arbitrary and makes her feel threatened—she feels the sanctions were meant to discourage her from being associated with controversial events in the future.
“I think that this shouldn’t scare us or back us down at all,” she said. “It should enrage us more and enrage more people, knowing that if this is happening to your fellow students, this could be happening to you too.”
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Staff