After months of being criticized for charging students with misconduct for actions taken during a sit-in protest on campus, Eastern Michigan University is opening up about the issue.
Calvin Phillips, the Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs at Eastern Michigan University, says despite what some students and staff members may think, the university cares about finding those responsible for racist graffiti found on campus. But they won't bend the rules if the student code of conduct is broken during the demonstrations.
"We are supportive of you from the very beginning. We are supportive of the protest, there has never been anything done that says that we don't. Simply and no one wants to hear the answer I give but I'm going to give it, we're actually dealing with the situation where people are in the building after hours. That's just simply it and that is something that we have to be hold accountable for to make sure we are following our process. And people get upset about it and they are angry but I also know that any other cases the come before us, that can be in the same situation, I have to handle them the same way."
Earlier his week, senior Demajae Muray learned his punishment for deciding to stay and protest in the student center after it closed. He received a formal reprimand, but the Office of Student Conduct dropped a deferred suspension charge and is not requiring him to write an apology letter. The decision was made by a judicial board made up of faculty and staff.
"Basically, just written warning and the school telling me that next time I'll be punished more severely. Most people would say, 'OK, that's fine. I will take that.' I'm still going to appeal that."
Protests continue on campus, as EMU is under fire for charging 16 students with misconduct for their actions during the sit-in. Some received verbal warnings, while others like Muray received a deferred suspension charge. Calvin Phillips says out of the over 200 cases they see a year, they rarely issue that type of charge for a first offense.
"Some of those are what I call build upon based of previous violations that you made based on the student code of conduct. That can put you in that position of deferred suspension of that nature or suspension, possibly the next avenue for you because apparently you have a pattern of violating the student code of conduct."
Muray does have a history with the Office of Student Conduct but believes he was targeted for being a leader.
"The charges were based off of this event. The deferred suspension wasn't because of previous records with the student conduct code, because it had nothing to do with what was happening this time."
EMU's police department says they've committed more than 600 hours in investigating who is responsible for the racist graffiti. They've also questioned 40 people about the case and, from time to time, give short updates on their website about the investigation. But Muray believes they've failed to really inform students about what's going on.
"I believe that's because the university truly doesn't care and they were never really looking because the whole time that's that this has been going on their main focus has always been the protestors and what the protestors are doing and investigating who was at the Student Center that night and trying to come up with sanctions and charges. All the money, time, and resources that they are figuring out about peaceful protestors they could have bee using to figure out who wrote on the wall."
The Office of Student Conduct will continue to meet with those facing charges before the judicial board determines what their punishment, if any, will be.
— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org