Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Four student protesters under investigation, face possible expulsion after protesting dismissal of TAs

Jack Myer
Students walking past the UT Tower on Dec. 2, 2021.

Four student protesters face investigation by the University and possible expulsion after entering the dean of the School of Social Work’s office to protest two teaching assistants being relieved of their positions for a Canvas message commenting on the Israel-Hamas war on Dec. 8, according to emails sent to the protesters by the University. 

Two teaching assistants, Callie Kennedy and Parham Daghighi, sent a Canvas message on Nov. 16 to fulfill requests from students for mental health resources amid the Israel-Hamas war. Allan Cole, the dean of the School of Social Work, announced the TAs would be relieved of their positions on Nov. 22. This resulted in protests and letters from students and faculty disagreeing with the decision. 

Over a month after the protest, on Jan. 17, fifth-year doctoral student Evan Scope Crafts, anthropology senior Valkyrie Church, December 2023 graduate Sameeha Rizvi and an anonymous protester received an email from the University informing them of an investigation into possible violations of University policy, involving disruptive conduct, failure to comply, unauthorized entry and local, state or federal law following the protest. 

Scope Crafts said he was one of the 11 protesters who entered Cole’s office in the School of Social Work and read a list of demands, which included the TAs’ reinstatement. Scope Crafts said Cole’s secretary ushered Cole into a side room and the police were called. Scope Crafts said University faculty never asked them to leave.

University officials met with the students and attorney George Lobb to discuss the results of the investigation and potential repercussions, including possible expulsion. The University said it will inform them of the decision early this week, but Scope Crafts said he has not heard any updates. 

“UT is sending a clear message to all of these people that any dissent, any disruption, will not be tolerated, and that UT does not really value the voices of its own students,” Scope Crafts said. 

According to the letter the students received from the Office of the Dean of Students, the students accessed Cole’s office without authorization, as shown by security camera footage, photos and other data. Mike Rosen, the assistant vice president for University communications, said the students obstructed Cole from leaving the room. 

“Protestors crossed the line of acceptable behavior and violated University rules multiple times,” the University said in a statement on Dec. 13 following the incident. “We will not tolerate disruptions to the teaching and research activities of our students, faculty and staff; our campus; or events. We are investigating and will punish those found to violate our rules, policies, or the law.”

However, Scope Crafts said administrative staff let the students into the office. Lobb said the University is withholding evidence of the students trespassing. The investigation is still ongoing, Lobb said, but he doesn’t know why.

“They’re keeping it vague and nebulous because they know that if they played a clean game, they would lose,” Lobb said. “If you’re going to (be) loose on the facts and the law, you gotta keep it as vague as possible, and that’s the game they’re playing.” 

Scope Crafts said he still attends classes and faces no limitations in campus life because of the investigation, but he feels the University stripped him of his First Amendment right. However, he said he hopes students continue fighting this case. 

“It’s not to ask nicely anymore, it’s to force their hand through the only power we have,” Scope Crafts said. “We may be powerless separately but we’re incredibly powerful together.”

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