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Students disciplined for violating Cal Poly Humboldt protest rules

Two students were punished for their involvement in a protest on Jan. 23 that took place outside a donor event at the Reese Bullen Gallery. They received disciplinary action for violating the campus free speech policy. As a result, they were put on deferred probation and warned not to break this policy in the future or they would face harsher consequences. 

Mary Mangubat, Rick Toledo and other students gathered to protest high administrators salaries and benefits while other faculty have low wages.

On Jan. 23, Dean of Students Mitch Mitchell and Associate Dean of Students Molly Kresel responded to the protest outside of the Reese Bullen Gallery. Kresel approached Toledo asking if this was a CFA-related event. He explained that this protest was not linked to the CFA, it was for people who were upset with President Tom Jackson for avoiding students, staff and faculty. 

Although the protest was student-led, CFA Vice President Tony Silvaggio said in an interview with El Leñador that he wanted to make it clear CFA members helped organize this protest along with students.

Some of the students protesting outside the gallery went inside to see if there was an event taking place. Toledo explained he went around the back of the building to check, it was at this point that another member of their group handed him a megaphone. Toledo walked back to the front of the gallery building with the megaphone around his shoulder. Mitchell, CFA Field Representative Maureen Loughran and UPD Lieutenant Peter Cress were seen talking. Toledo said Mitchell stopped him and grabbed his arm saying, “There’s no sound allowed.” While Loughran said,” It’s not on, It’s not on!” Mitchell continued, “I don’t care if it’s not on, you can’t have that out here.” Toledo tried to explain it wasn’t on, he wasn’t doing anything with the megaphone at the moment.

Loughren and Silvaggio were the two CFA members present during the protest and witnessed the escalation between the student protestors and Dean of Students Mitch Mitchell. Loughren said she felt that Mitchell was,“Super intent on using his power and privilege to come down on students.” Students were upset at Mitchell’s initial behavior, trying to shut the protest down and telling students they could not proceed with the protest. Mitchell called UPD on the students protesting, the service log recorded that the protest was logged at 4:46 p.m. 

“The policy limits us to do anything effectively, the entire point of protesting is to disrupt the activities happening, if people in power aren’t listening you can force their ear by disrupting the activities they rely on for their paycheck,” Toledo said. 

When asked about the events of the protest Dean Mitchell stated, “We will misconstrue falsehoods as if they are the truth to push an agenda. It troubles me because, me being a newcomer to the system, being an advocate for those BIPOC students, and being Black in a historically predominant white institution, newness is different for some of our students.” He explained that he was walking to his car when he saw people organizing. He wasn’t sure if these were students or people from the Humboldt community. He went up to the group and identified himself as a member of the administration. 

Mitchell warned student protestors, “I don’t want matters to be worse for you.” Going into the building after being told not to was failing to comply with Dean Michell, which was one of the disciplinary charges. He didn’t want to say exactly what the students projected to him except that they were, ”unbecoming things.” The group of protesters began to “boo” Mitchell once they realized the cops had been called on them. Toledo and Mangubat both said  they used the megaphone. This upset Mitchell and he left. 

“Instead of leveling with students before it escalates, they pour gasoline on it by threatening with the time, place, and manner policy and sending police out. They met the aggression with more aggression,” Toledo said.

Subsequently, Mangubat and Toledo received an email on Feb. 2 outlining the violations: utilizing a megaphone outside the restrictions of the Time Place and Manner Policy time frames, disruption of classes in Art B and Music B due to sound amplification, failure to comply with the Dean of Students request as a university official and blocking the entrance of the Art B building. 

“They are targeting the organizers or any outspoken people. It was a predominantly BIPOC group of people,” Mangubat said. 

Mangubat and Toledo received this disciplinary notice on Feb. 2 via email notifying them that they would have to appear in response to the donor meeting protest. Mangubat felt fear because only two people were being singled out; she didn’t expect the school to pursue disciplinary action. In the hearing, it was concluded that Mangubat and Toledo would be on deferred probation, meaning that if they are involved with any future protests that violate the campus policy they will be sent to another disciplinary hearing and there could be consequences depending on the situation. This initial hearing was just a warning and they will have to write a reflective paper on how they will handle future protests. 

Student protesters breaking up into a second group to walk around around campus. Photo by Maryanne Casas-Perez

A group of students gathered in the SAC Quad on the day of their hearing Feb. 8 to protest the disciplinary action taken against these two students. In response to the planning of the protest,  The night before the protest, Cal Poly Humboldt sent out an email on Feb. 7, reminding students of the “Time, Manner and Place Policy and Free Speech Activities Policy.

The protest seemed to be organized by multiple groups of students. Some of the protestors broke away from the main protest to chant in Founders Hall. They were followed by two members of the administration and a UPD officer. During their detour, they made other students aware of Mary and Rick’s disciplinary hearing.

“Mary has no idea who’s organizing or who did the posters or anything but it sucks because they are white guys so they can’t get persecuted for doing the same thing she did,” said Isabel Acosta, a coworker of Mangubat. 

“Student advocacy is important, student voices need to be heard, we welcome those, but there’s a right way to do things that’s why we have policies in place to protect us,” Mitchell said. He explained that the policy is to also protect other students who want to focus on their education and not be a part of the protests. 

However, when asked about the “unbecoming things” student protesters yelled there was no clear answer, only his statement, “Doesn’t matter how I perceived it, it was what transpired.” 

To clear up some misconceptions from the flyers, the protest, and rumors, Mangubat confirmed she did not interact with the UPD during the donor meeting protest, she does not identify as Indigenous, she didn’t know about the protest held on Feb. 8 beforehand, and in no way did Cal Poly Humboldt tell her that she couldn’t have legal representation during the disciplinary hearing. 

Toledo and Mangubat learned in their disciplinary hearing that Mitchell wanted them to have probation, marks on their record, and write him a personal letter of apology. Kresel who was in the disciplinary hearing confirmed that all protests whether planned through the student life office or unplanned must abide by the campus Time, Manner, and Place Policy and Free Speech Activities Policy. 

After the protest and the disciplinary hearing, Mangubat is grateful to the students who showed their support and worry for her well-being. Despite this whole ordeal, she is not upset with the administration and is not deterred from helping students voice their opinions. 

“There is less and less students can do to express their beliefs and concerns,” said Silvaggio. “As a result, at least three CFA members have filed incident reports to challenge the disciplinary action taken against Mangubat and Toledo. 

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to clarify when the SAC quad protest occurred, that students did use the megaphone on the Jan. 23 protest and facts about the email sent on Feb. 7.

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