Students protest fines for occupation
April 7, 2010 9:14 AM
Note to readers: When this article was published in the 10th issue of the Golden Gate [X]press newspaper on April 7, 2010, everything from the seventh paragraph to the 14th paragraph was cut from the story. This occurred due to a layering problem in the program our staff uses to design the paper. Newspaper editors Nathan Codd and Morgane Byloos apologize for their mistake.
The University decided to charge 11 students involved in the Dec. 9 occupation of the Business building for damages incurred throughout the incident and "lodging" for police. Each student was billed $744 for direct costs, University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said.
In response to these fines, the students involved each wrote a letter of complaint and personally handed it to Assistant Dean of Students Will Flowers at 4:20 p.m. April 6 after entering the Student Services building as a group and demanding to speak with him.
Flowers said he couldn't comment on the matter. "I'm not answering questions," he said. "Don't expect me to respond. I stand under the verbal laws."
According to Griffin, the direct costs totaled $8,816, which was then split 11 ways, amounting to $744 each.
"While Student Judicial Affairs could have tallied all indirect costs associated with this action University-wide, and levied a much higher restitution fee, it was determined that accepting the consequences for direct costs would be an appropriate learning experience," she said.
She added that one of the sanctions placed on the 11 students was restitution for charges incurred in restoring the Business building to full use.
"These charges covered custodial costs, costs to replace a window and lodging for some officers," Griffin said.
According to her, it is protocol to provide lodging for officers who commute over a bridge to ensure availability in the event of a bridge malfunction or shutdown, etc.
Halston Chapman, one of the students who occupied the building, refused to sign the sanction letter, stating they had to pay direct costs for damages, which at that time, were reported to be none.
"I'm having a judicial hearing this Thursday to handle that matter. So as of now, I'm not obligated to pay the fees. I might face a stronger fine."
Chapman said the only reason they signed the sanction letter is because it can protect them from any false charges.
"But in reality, if we sign it, we're obligated to pay this money. We would've agreed to pay for the window that the police broke because that was the only damage that was done."
Griffin said that the Office of Student Judicial Affairs reviews cases sent for student disciplinary review and "decides what sanctions or restrictions can best educate a student about the importance of following rules, and consequences of breaking them."
Around 25 people attended the unplanned meeting, including students who supported their fellow students, two Local 2 union affiliates and an SF State professor.
Among the people who followed and attended the unplanned meeting with Flowers was philosophy professor Ann Robertson. She said that the students were trying to defend public education and that Dec. 9 was a peaceful protest.
"The police were coming in with guns drawn? Isn't there uproar against that? I think that's outrageous," Robertson said.
Another supporter who attended the meeting was Alphonso Pines, an SF State staff member and part of Local 2, a union in San Francisco and San Mateo counties. According to him, Local 2 has been active for over 20 years with at least 10,000 people arrested from protesting, but they've never gotten a bill.
"I came to support the students because they came to support us several times," he said.
To show support for those involved, students have planned a rally April 7 in front of the Psychology and Ethnic Studies building at noon.
SF State microbiology student Derrick Harris thinks the fine is ridiculous.
"If anything, it should be just a little slap on the wrist. Why would you want to charge ($744) for some bulls***? That's really expensive," he said. "If I were (the students), I would say in the letter that I was exercising my First Amendment rights. Honestly, if the police were coming after me, I'd feel threatened, especially if I'm not really doing anything wrong. If I shut down a building, I did it to prove a point."
"They were just sharing songs and making music and basically just supporting each other," she said. "Personally, I don't think the students committed any crimes, so arresting them was wrong. The whole thing was just unnecessary. They have to understand where the students are coming from, and they just want their voices to be heard."
"If this stands I will be out there. I will be communicating. I don't think you guys want to be on channel 4, channel 7 or the New York Times again," Pines said to Flowers during the meeting.
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