Two protest-related judicial inquiries resolved

Dean of Students Office assigns no sanctions to students

On December 12, the judicial cases brought against graduate student Michael Gardner and Bryan Johns ’19 regarding the demonstration held during the capital campaign launch event on October 13 were resolved, and no sanctions were assigned to either student.

“Upon thorough review of all the information provided, the preponderance of the evidence does not support a finding of responsibility for violations of the below Grounds for Disciplinary Action, as originally alleged,” wrote Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Travis T. Apgar in an email to Gardner that outlined the outcome of his case. The violations mentioned included “trespassing,” “violation of a published Rensselaer/student government policy or regulation,” and “failure to comply.”

According to Apgar, 300 to 375 individual student judicial cases may be opened in any given year. In the past year, there have been 59 inquiries that resulted in no finding of responsibility.

In the email to Gardner, Apgar further expressed, “Although there are no responsible findings, I do want to remind you that the Institute respects your right to free expression. As detailed in the ‘Student Bill of Rights,’ student and student groups are free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them publically [sic] and privately. Students are also free to support causes by way of peaceful assembly which do not disrupt the normal operation of the Institute.”

“However, that does not mean that students who wish to speak publicly are free to do so at a time, place, and manner of their choosing without regard to Institute rules designed to ensure safety and non-disruption,” he continued.

Apgar further remarked, “In choosing your conduct, you must uphold your personal and social responsibility to conduct yourself in a safe and respectful manner that is in compliance with Institute rules and policies. It is required of you to do so in the future.”

Although Apgar communicated the outcome of Gardner’s case in his hearing officer’s absence, the judgment of the judicial inquiry is ultimately the hearing officer’s decision. The hearing officer may, and often does, consult people throughout a case, including the dean of students and the director of rights, responsibilities, and judicial affairs.

In an email to The Poly, Apgar expressed that “Media and other external influences do not factor into decisions made within the Rensselaer judicial process. Decisions are made based on evidence and thorough consideration of the ideal outcome for the student(s) involved and the community overall. We are committed to student privacy rights, therefore I will not discuss specific judicial cases but, what I can share is, in the Rensselaer judicial process, allegations are not typically dropped. Decisions are based on evidence collected during the judicial inquiry (fact-finding effort). The evidence either supports a finding of responsibility, or not. This will be clearly indicated in the determination communications.”

Gardner, in a comment to The Poly, remarked, “RPI’s integrity is not mended with the conclusion of this judicial process; the fact that this exists mocks their responsibility to honor free speech. My charges were filed due to my views on the school’s precarious financial status and inept governance.

“It would seem the administration didn’t choose to stop because an objective analysis revealed my innocence, but forced to concede due to universal condemnation from the student senate, the alumni, the national press, and civil rights advocacy groups,” he added.