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DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY

REPORT OF THE AD HOC COMMITTEE CONCERNING THE FEBRUARY 20 INCIDENT ON THE GREGORY GYM PLAZA

 

Following is the report submitted by Dean Edwin Dorn, chair of the special committee appointed by the president to investigate the circumstances and events connected with the Justice for All display on the Gregory Gym Plaza on February 20, 2001.


<signed>

John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty

REPORT OF THE AD HOC COMMITTEE CONCERNING THE FEBRUARY 20 INCIDENT ON THE GREGORY GYM PLAZA

 

Introduction

In an April 17 letter, you charged us "to investigate the allegation that Professor Mia Carter was singled out by the campus police" during a demonstration outside Gregory Gymnasium on February 20. You also invited us to "suggest follow-up actions, including policy changes" that emerge from our review.

We met as a group for approximately 15 hours over a three-week period. During those meetings, we interviewed professors Mia Carter, Elizabeth Cullingford and Dana Cloud; Dean of Students staff members Kevin Rome and Cheryl Wood; Associate Vice President for Employee and Campus Services Joe Powell; UT Police Chief Jeffrey Van Slyke; Assistant Police Chief Terry McMahan; and Officer Chris Laureles. We also watched videotapes of the incident, reviewed pertinent University rules, and received unsolicited communications from several members of the University community.

This memorandum describes the incident, offers three sets of findings and recommendations, and closes with observations about two issues that warrant further attention.

 

The Incident

Around 11:30 am on Tuesday, February 20, approximately 200 UT students, faculty and staff members gathered in front of Gregory Gymnasium to protest the presence of a large, provocative pictorial display owned by a national anti-abortion organization. The display, which was developed by professionals and assembled by the organization's leaders, was permitted on campus because it had secured nominal sponsorship (which included a one-dollar contract) from a recognized student organization.

According to staff members in the Office of the Dean of Students, the University's rules permit visual displays on the plaza in front of Gregory Gym. However, the rules prohibit the use of amplified sound because of the plaza's proximity to classrooms. When one of the demonstrators appeared with a "bullhorn", staff members from the Office of the Dean of Students told him that he could not use it. Nevertheless, as the rally got under way, the first speaker used the bullhorn for several minutes. She put it down when a university policeman started to approach her. Several other people addressed the crowd, at least two of whom used the bullhorn.

Professor Mia Carter was one of the speakers who used the bullhorn. Videotape of the incident shows a policeman approaching Professor Carter as she spoke. He stood several feet away from her for a few seconds,


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then walked away. We were not able to determine what the policeman said to her or whether, amidst the noise of the demonstration, it was possible for her to understand him.

On instructions from staff members from the Office of the Dean of Students and from the Associate Vice President for Employee and Campus Services, several policemen re-entered the crowd. Demonstrators formed a cordon around Professor Carter. Some of them tried to push the policemen away and one of the demonstrators attempted to pull an officer's weapon out of its holster. One of the policemen approached Professor Carter from behind, pulled the bullhorn from her hands and walked out of the crowd. During the pushing and pulling, Professor Carter sustained cuts and bruises and a UT police officer sustained a knee injury requiring surgery.

 

Finding 1: The Allegation.

Your charge to us was derived from a Faculty Council resolution which alleged implicitly that Professor Carter was "targeted" because she is African-American. We did not find evidence to support that allegation. The most plausible conclusion we can draw is that the campus police approached Professor Carter because she was the person using the bullhorn when they were instructed to re-enter the crowd and take the bullhorn.

Recommendation: that you share this finding with the University community.

 

Finding 2: Operating Procedures

Two staff members from the Office of the Dean of Students instructed the University Police to warn the demonstrators not to use amplified sound. When the warnings were not heeded, Dean of Students staff members, in concert with the Associate Vice President for Employee and Campus Services, instructed the police to take the bullhorn.

The incident makes clear that the University needs to reassess existing policies and practices for responding to campus demonstrations. As staff from the Office of the Dean of Students, the Associate Vice President and the University Police consulted at the scene and determined upon a course of action, lines of authority and communication appear to be have been blurred. Both the Chief of Police and the Assistant Chief of Police were at the scene, but they appear not to have been consulted about the tactical situation, and the instruction to take the bullhorn was not conveyed through them. More significantly, University Police, the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students staff do not appear to have had a common understanding of the amount of force that the police were expected to use in carrying out the instruction to take the bullhorn. Nor did the police officers have a common script or phrasing by which to communicate with the demonstrators.

We recognize the difficulty that a university faces in protecting — indeed, encouraging -- freedom of expression while also preventing unnecessary disruption. However, our review suggests that the demonstrators and the police were fortunate that this incident did not result in greater harm than actually occurred. Lessons learned from this incident can lead to better responses in future.

Recommendations: that you establish a working group to:

  • clarify the chain of command and decision-making process during crowd control and demonstration situations.
  • develop standard operating procedures for handling demonstrations, including clear guidelines on the use of force;
  • ensure that police officers and staff in the Office of the Dean of Students receive training on the rules and procedures; and
  • set up a process through which appropriate University administrators can work with the police to develop plans for dealing with different types of contingencies.

    The working group should include representatives from faculty, staff, students, administrators and the police.


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Finding 3: Policy

Rules governing the use of the space in front of Gregory Gymnasium were in a state of flux during the 2000-01 school year. A clear, up-to-date statement of permissible (and impermissible) activities was not published in the Student Handbook or in any other readily accessible source. This gave rise to disagreement and misunderstanding between demonstrators and UT administrators over what the rules were, where they were stated, when and why they had been changed. In addition, the university's policy regarding displays appears not to take into account the likelihood that a highly provocative visual display will elicit an equally provocative verbal display.

Recommendations: that you instruct appropriate staff to:
  • ensure that changes in policies and rules are made through a transparent decision-making process that involves input from students, faculty and staff;
  • publicize the changes widely; and
  • reconsider the relationship between verbal and visual displays.

 

Related Observations

During the course of our review, we also heard things that we feel obligated to call to your attention. We did not investigate them and thus cannot offer findings or recommendations.

First, regarding faculty involvement in demonstrations. UT faculty and staff members were involved in this demonstration, as is their right. It is not clear, however, whether the authority of the Office of the Dean of Students extends to faculty and staff members. Nor is it clear whether faculty and staff members who violate the University's rules regarding demonstrations can be disciplined in any way, other than by arrest for a violation of law.

Second, regarding other allegations about racial animosity. We heard allegations that University police occasionally have engaged in "racial profiling" — stopping African-American students and professors for no obvious reason other than their race. These allegations did not have a direct evidentiary link to the charge you gave us, and we did not attempt to investigate them. Nevertheless, allegations about previous racially motivated incidents give traction to the specific allegation covered by this review. More profoundly, failure to address these broader concerns can undermine the fundamental values for which this University stands.

We hope that this report satisfies your charge.

<signed>

Dean Edwin Dorn, Chair
Professor Desley A. Deacon
Professor Michael H. Granof
Professor Jan Summer
Dean Barbara W. White