Fordham University’s dean of students took action Friday against more than a dozen students who were involved in a scuffle outside the president’s office by suspending their access to campus for anything other than academic studies.
The decision led campus officials, including many faculty members, to pen an open letter to the president calling for the actions to be reversed.
The student protesters “forced their way” into the foyer of the president’s office Thursday afternoon, according to a university statement provided to Inside Higher Ed, requiring intervention from public safety officials. After multiple requests to leave the entrance to the office, the protesters relocated and resumed their demonstration outside.
The students were protesting "in support of faculty rights," according to the open letter.
No protesters were injured, according to the statement, but the public safety officials each sustained a cut to one of their arms.
Christopher Rodgers, the dean of students, decided on Friday to suspend at least 14 students’ access to campus until Sunday evening. Students living on campus were evicted from their dorm rooms, the open letter says, and those living off campus were prohibited from going on campus for anything besides class and other mandatory academic activities.
“The university condemns the actions of those protesters who used physical force to make their point, and in the process injured two members of the Fordham community,” the statement said. “These measures are not frequently used, but are routine for the level of disciplinary charges the students will likely face, and are part of the university’s long-established policy.”
The signees of the open letter to the president, Reverend Joseph McShane, disagree -- they called Rodgers's actions "unprecedented."
The letter says Rodgers took this action based on a line in the student handbook that says a student may be suspended if the dean of students “determines that the well-being including, but not limited to, the health and safety of the community or of the accused student is endangered by that student’s presence on campus.”
The authors of the open letter felt Rodgers’s actions reflected a misinterpretation of that line in the handbook.
“Whatever [the students'] behavior was in the context of the demonstration -- and again, that has yet to be adjudicated -- nothing in their actions indicates that they could pose a threat to anyone outside of such a context,” the letter said. “There is zero chance that they are going to walk around campus assaulting students and security guards. It is hard to see Dean Rodgers's decisions as anything other than vindictive.”
Those who signed the letter are urging Father McShane to intervene and overturn the dean of students’ actions immediately.
The university’s statement says that all students who were affected by this action had other places to stay over the weekend. “The university stresses that these are interim measures only: whether the students in question face sanctions will be determined through normal conduct proceedings in the coming week.”