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

Letters from American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, student protesters address University disciplinary notices

Manoo Sirivelu
A police officer warns protesters to make space as an organizer is held down and zip-tied on UT’s Main Mall during the pro-Palestine student walkout on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.

A group of arrested student protesters and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas wrote letters to the University in response to the disciplinary notices sent to students arrested during April’s pro-Palestine protests. 

The University asked students to provide written statements during their disciplinary proceedings, and the students responded with a joint letter on June 18 addressing questions from the University as well as the actions taken against them. 

Anne-Marie Jardine, a student arrested at the April 24 protest and received a disciplinary notice, and the other students involved in drafting the letter said the phrasing of the University’s questions was purposely misleading and possibly incriminating.

The students affirmed they did not violate University policy because the April 24 protest was planned as an educational session and both the Gregory Gym Plaza and the South Lawn are designated as “common outdoor areas” and do not require reservations in advance.

“This irregular disciplinary process is entirely unclear,” the group said in the statement. “We believe this lack of communication and information on the University’s part to be unjust and unfair. … These referral notices and questionnaires have been distributed to students in a staggered and arbitrary timeframe, which has prevented us from being able to seek appropriate counsel and find adequate support in this process that otherwise would have been made available to us.” 

On the same day, the ACLU of Texas wrote a letter to President Jay Hartzell addressing concerns about the University’s disciplinary proceedings for the arrested students. 

According to the letter, “subjecting students to a disciplinary process for simply participating in peaceful protest chills the First Amendment rights of every person connected to the University and erodes the core tenets of our democracy.”

Chloe Kempf, an attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said the organization wrote the letter to highlight concerns regarding the University’s investigation process and ensure students are aware of their rights throughout the process.

“Our biggest concern is preserving free speech rights on public university campuses because having the freedom of expression amongst our students who are rising citizens is an extremely important tenant in our democracy,” Kempf said.

At the end of the letter, the ACLU asked the University to ensure investigations are based on individualized evidence for students’ actions and to inform students of their rights to remain silent and to legal representation, especially in cases of impending criminal charges. Kempf said the letter was a starting point for addressing concerns about the disciplinary proceeding process, and the ACLU will continue to monitor the University’s implementations.

Once students are … fully aware of the landscape of their rights, they can make the decision that they feel is correct for them,” Kempf said. “But they can’t make an informed decision if they aren’t being given all of the information they need.”

The University declined to comment.

Jardine, who was unable to obtain a physical copy of her degree, said the ACLU’s involvement surprised her because she did not think it was something the organization would be involved with.

“It gave my mom hope that I’ll be able to get my degree,” Jardine said. “It’s a glimmer of hope.”

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