Four of the students being tried (one was not on campus and Skyped in) (left) listen to Karen Guttentag (right) read their character references. (Drawing by Marcella Houghton ’12.5)
(Luke Whelan and Olivia Noble contributed to this post)
Yesterday afternoon, the Middlebury Community Judicial Board (CJB) heard the case of the five students who call themselves the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee, who are responsible for sending out the satirical (or fraudulent, according to some) press release and subsequent “coming clean” letter in October. After an intense six hours of statements, questioning, witness testimony and character references, then many more hours deliberating after the hearing, the CJB came out with a verdict late last night. They found the students guilty of violating the Community Standard of communicating with honesty and integrity in the College Handbook, and the “ethical and law-abiding behavior” clause in the Library and Information Services (LIS) policy. However, their sentence is a reprimand-- not official college discipline. According to the DLWC website, “[the CJB] said this is mostly due to respect for individuals who might have been offended by our actions or to whom our actions were a nuisance.” Furthermore, the CJB did not find the five students guilty of violating the “respect for others” clause in LIS policy or for sending an unauthorized all-student email.
Final update: The Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee is found guilty of violating some college policies, but no official college discipline will result. Check out MiddBlog’s detailed account of the trial.
Update 7:19PM: A lot has happened so far. MiddBlog is going take a little bit to come out with more comprehensive coverage, but here are some themes that have come out so far: Accountability, intent, and the fine line between fraud and satire.
Update 5:06PM: So far both parties have made their opening statements. In her opening statement, complainant Dean Collado emphasized the importance of separating the moral issues and freedom of speech from the infraction of college policies in the college handbook. She also said that during an important time in the College’s history (referring to the Dalai Lama’s visit), “unfortunately this email turned [the administrations]‘s energy to managing a great deal of confusion [within and beyond the college community].”
The Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee responded that the moral issues they aim to confront cannot be separated from the action itself, as the action is their message. They also cited a satirical issue of the Campus released on April Fool’s Day.
Original Post: Ten minutes and counting until the beginning of Middlebury’s first open Community Judicial Board hearing in recent memory. Five Middlebury students are on trial for their involvement in a satirical press release claiming Middlebury College divested from war and fossil fuels in honor of the Dalai Lama’s visit. Every seat in Dana, the school’s largest auditorium, has been filled and people have been turned away.
All cell phones and electronic devices are prohibited, but we’ll be posting updates during scheduled breaks, as long as this doesn’t violate judiciary procedure. Stay tuned for more comprehensive coverage after the hearing.
10/26/12: A letter endorsed by several faculty members in support of the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee was posted on MiddNotes today. Here is what it says:
Lately professors all over the country and here at Middlebury have been trying to answer the question, “Why liberal arts?” Although the answer is complex, it’s also quite simple. A good liberal arts education produces critically engaged citizens. In other words, people who can get information, analyze it and yes, think about it. As civically engaged citizens, students of the liberal arts are then very often moved to action.
This is exactly what happened last week when a group of Middlebury students decided to push the College to think about how we make our money. The students did this by sending out a fake press release stating that in conjunction with the Dalai Lama’s visit, Middlebury would be divesting itself from all companies that make a profit from war.
The press release was not a joke, but a protest. It pointed out the contradiction of saying we support peaceful solutions and simultaneously taking money from weapons’ manufacturers. It also points out the contradiction between being “carbon neutral” and getting dividends from Big Oil.
This action occurred not because Middlebury is more hypocritical than other institutions. It’s not. But because Middlebury is incredibly good at producing critically engaged citizens.
We the undersigned would like to publicly share our support with the students for pushing all of us to put our money where our mouths and our values are. We also want to applaud them for highlighting the power of a liberal arts education in producing critically engaged citizens.
Submitted by ROBERT COHEN, Professor of English and American Literatures; LAURIE ESSIG, Associate Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies; PETER HAMLIN, Christian A. Johnson Professor of Music; PETER MATTHEWS, James B. Jermain Professor of Political Economy; SUJATA MOORTI, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies; KEVIN MOSS, Jean Thompson Fulton Professor of Modern Language and Literature; MARGARET NELSON, A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Sociology; MIKE OLINICK, Professor of Mathematics; LINUS OWENS, Associate Professor of Sociology; ELLEN OXFELD, Gordon Schuster Professor of Anthropology; JAY PARINI, D.E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing; DAVID STOLL, Professor of Anthropology; YUMNA SIDDIQI, Associate Professor of English and American Literatures; STEVE SNYDER, Kawashima Professor of Japanese Studies; HECTOR VILA, Assistant Professor of Writing; GREG VITERCIK, Professor of Music.
Update 10/25/12: The Campus came out today with a comprehensive article covering the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee’s press release action. The Campus opinions section was also full of op-eds related to DLWC and divestment, including the Campus’s editorial (which raises some great points–definitely worth reading). One of the most interesting perspectives on divestment came in an op-ed written by a prospective student and endorsed by a group of her peer prospective students who belong to a program called Discover Middlebury.
A couple of events concerning the endowment and divestment will be happening this weekend, starting tonight at 8:30 PM in Axinn 219 with a student panel called “Divesting for our Future.” Also, the DLWC will hold a general assembly tomorrow at 4PM in the Warner Hemicycle. Read more
“Come to Capoeira, this dude there does crazy stuff on his head!”
Just as advertised.
Rufus Ragunath, 2015