Students Sue Over Protest Punishment
September 1, 2005 8:21 PM
Two SF State student organizations involved in a protest last March have filed a lawsuit against SF State for violation of their First Amendment rights.
Attorneys for Students Against War and the International Socialist Organization said the protestors were exercising their First Amendment rights by organizing a protest against military recruitment on campus. The attorneys also said that SF State was not following its own anti-discrimination policy by allowing the military, which has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, on campus. SF State placed both groups on probation, but the university has not yet imposed punishment against any single student.
“There has been a petition filed, you could call it a lawsuit,” said Joshua Sandheimer, one of the lawyers handling the case on behalf of the two groups. “We have a team of lawyers working on this.”
The groups said they demand to be taken off of probation, and that SF State adopts an official stance against the military’s discriminatory hiring practices. The student groups are also demanding the right to protest effectively.
The chaos began six months ago, on March 9, in Jack Adams Hall at a recruiting fair sponsored by the College of Science and Engineering. About 150 protesters surrounded the recruiting tables of the Air Force and the Army Corps of Engineers, forcing them to leave early. The SF State Career Center refunded over $6000 in registration fees to various job recruiters in attendance because the protests made it impossible for employers to talk to prospective hires, according to the Director of the Career Center Jack Brewer.
According to Title V of the California Code of Regulations, any disruption of campus activities is a possible ground for expulsion from the California State University system.
Paradis Esmaeili, a 19-year-old biology major and member of SAW, said she was one of three protesters removed from the event. She has yet to find out what her punishment might be.
“It can be anything,” she explained. “(Anything) from a slap on the hand to expulsion.”
The groups hope to force the university to say that military recruiters use discriminatory hiring practices, Esmaeili said. They also want to see an end to the Solomon Amendment, which can take federal funds from campuses for not permitting military recruitment.
"It was clear from the evidence we've collected that certain individuals at SFSU were bent on punishing these student groups and didn't seem to care about ensuring the student groups had a fair hearing," said Sharon Adams, the lead attorney handling the case, in a press release from the National Lawyers Guild.
“We demand that the student groups on probation are removed from probation,” Adams said.
The groups are demanding that the university publicly state that even though they must allow military recruiters access to campus, they disapprove of the military’s discriminatory hiring practices, which lawyers say is in direct conflict with the school’s hiring policies.
“We all recognize they have to allow them on campus,” Adams said. “We want a statement that they’re not supporting the military.”
The university has not yet responded to the demands, but they are currently in negotiations with lawyers handling the case. University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin was unable to comment.
The ISO and SAW have been active on SF State campus in their protesting the war on terror. Last April, the ISO brought several speakers to campus to speak out against the war.
Among those were former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Matt Gonzalez, Lynne Stewart, the lawyer representing Sheikh Abdel Rahman, the man convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and Cindy Sheehan, the Vallejo mother whose protests outside President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch have reignited debate about the war in Iraq.
"It is appalling that University officials would choose to punish students for a basic
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