Disciplinary Hearing at Brooklyn College Friday

Credit:  Mike65444  (Flickr)

Credit: Mike65444 (Flickr)

Sarah Aly and Thomas DeAngelis, two of the nine students involved in a February 16, “mic check” at Brooklyn College, will appear before a disciplinary committee for a hearing on Friday, May 20, 2016 at 9:30 am at Brooklyn College Student Center, State Lounge.

The students will be requesting an open public hearing that morning. Under CUNY rules “the chairperson has the right to deny the request and hold a closed hearing when an open public hearing would adversely affect and be disruptive to the committee's normal operations.”


What rule violations is Brooklyn College alleging Sarah and Tom committed?

Sarah Aly and Thomas DeAngelis are charged with violating Rules 1, 2, 3, and 7 of the City University of New York’s (CUNY) code of conduct, or the Henderson Rules, for their participation in a “mic-check” that addressed issues ranging from tuition to faculty diversity.

The charges against the students range from intentional obstruction and failure to comply with lawful directions to unauthorized occupancy of college facilities and disorderly conduct.

At the hearing, Sarah and Tom will have the opportunity to rebut these charges and present their side of the story. The students may face penalties ranging from admonition to expulsion.

I received an email from President Gould and Provost Tramontano saying that the group of students made hateful anti-Jewish remarks at the February 16 faculty council meeting.  Are those accusations going to be addressed?

The February 16 ‘mic check’ was organized by an ad hoc group of 9 students. Palestine Legal represents two of these nine students. Neither Sarah nor Tom have been charged with making hateful or anti-Jewish remarks.

It is also our understanding that Sarah and Tom are the only students being called to appear before the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee on this matter.

Sarah and Tom are asking President Gould and Provost Tramontano to correct the email they blasted to thousands of people accusing the students of making such statements. Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine (BC-SJP) – which had nothing to do with the February 16 mic check – has also been maligned in the media, and not one BC-SJP member has been charged with making an anti-Jewish, hateful statement at the February 16, 2016 faculty council meeting.

Why are only Sarah and Tom being forced to appear before a disciplinary committee, when there were nine students at the “mic check?”

That is a good question for Brooklyn College. What we can tell you is that though the mic check was organized by an ad hoc group of students, Sarah and Tom are both separately on the executive board of Brooklyn College-Students for Justice in Palestine (BC-SJP).

Brooklyn College, politicians, and off campus Israel advocacy groups have a history of attempting to suppress speech activity supporting Palestinian rights at the College.

The charges against Sarah and Tom reflect a well-documented pattern of politically-motivated tactics used to suppress Palestinian rights advocates across the country, and at the City University of New York.  Assembly member Dov Hikind, a staunch Israel advocate with ties to right-wing extremist Meir Kahane, has a long history of advocating for the suppression of free speech rights of CUNY students and faculty. In early 2013, Hikind, along with other politicians, called on President Gould to resign after a BDS event. CUNY’s general counsel led a two-month investigation into the discrimination claims, interviewing more than forty individuals. The investigation found no evidence that BC-SJP students discriminated against anyone on account of their religion. The investigation also found insufficient evidence that four students were removed because of their political viewpoint, but that did not stop President Gould from subsequently issuing a public statement stating “it seems… [their removal was sought] because they held viewpoints contrary to those being promoted by the SJP.”

The charges against Sarah and Tom also come after a recent letter by ZOA to “investigate and ban” Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from all CUNY campuses.

How are students being treated in this process?

The process has been problematic from the beginning. As students at a public college, Sarah and Tom are afforded due process protections under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This means that before the College can determine they violated any rule, they must be provided a notice of charges, the evidence against them, and an opportunity to present their side of the story before a neutral fact-finder. They are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Instead, without any process, President Gould determined their guilt in an announcement to the campus community the day after the mic check. 

Since President Gould released her statement, Aly, who comes from a working class, immigrant background, has received a barrage of harassing, Islamophobic communications accusing her of antisemitism and discrimination. She has received messages calling her “Muslim trash” and “scum” for her “heinous acts,” with one message stating that “[E]very Muslim involved in creating this environment [at Brooklyn College] needs to be publically identified.” A poster advertising Brooklyn College’s study abroad program which contained an image of Aly was defaced – an upside-down cross was drawn on her forehead, and her eyes blacked out.

Is this connected to the budget cut threats or ZOA letter?

We can only state the facts. These charges do come shortly after a recent letter by the ZOA to “investigate and ban” SJP from all CUNY campuses. CUNY has since hired an independent law firm to look into the accusations by the ZOA. Similarly there was a short-lived controversy in the New York State Senate in March when state senators threatened to pull funding from CUNY if the school didn't look into the ZOA's allegations. However, contrary to a statement sent by Brooklyn College President Gould and Provost Tramontano to the campus community on February 17 and other media coverage, there are in fact no charges that the students uttered anti-Jewish or otherwise ‘hateful’ remarks.