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Columbia Investigating Students Who Protested Far-Right Speaker on Campus

By Jackson Chen | October 19, 2017 9:28am

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — Nearly 20 Columbia University students face disciplinary investigations after protesting a Republican club's speaker event last week.

A large group of student protesters had chanted over far-right English activist Tommy Robinson's remarks at a Columbia University College Republican's event at Lerner Hall on Oct. 10, repeatedly challenging his stances on immigration and eventually prompting him to cut his talk short.

Three days later, university administrator Suzanne Goldberg emailed several of the student protesters to say she was investigating a complaint about their "involvement in an interruption of a guest speaker at Columbia" and was beginning a disciplinary investigation.

The club's president Ari Boosalis previously said he reached out to university administration about the protesters disrupting the event

One of the protest's organizers, Aryn Davis, was taken aback by Goldberg's email, she said.

"It's not like we went in and unplugged the laptop and made sure he couldn't talk at all," Davis said. "We ended up engaging with [Robinson] and asking him questions. I don't understand why we're being disciplined at all."

Goldberg asked to meet next week with Davis and 18 other students about possible disciplinary actions, Davis said.

Davis is looking into obtaining legal representation for the upcoming meeting with Goldberg that is still being scheduled, the student said.

Boosalis said he first heard of the disciplinary meetings through the university's campus paper, the Columbia Spectator, adding that students should respect the rules and act accordingly in the future.

"I believe that it is the university’s responsibility to uphold its rules. Without enforcing them, we would have anarchy and chaos," Boosalis said. "Students must understand that their actions do have consequences if they fail to follow the rules of conduct."

A Columbia spokeswoman said university policy prevents them from sharing information about investigations or adjudications of misconduct, but stressed the distinction between protests and disruption, as students are allowed to protest but prohibited from preventing speakers being heard.

According to the Spectator, no protesters attended Herman Cain's speech on campus Tuesday night, which was also part of the Republican Club's speaker series.

Davis said protesters still intend to demonstrate at the next event in the series on Oct. 30, featuring alt-right media personality Mike Cernovich.