By Grace Apostol
Following the Washington College community protest regarding Dr. Robert George’s discussion at the institution Thursday, Sept. 7, President of the College Dr. Mike Sosulski sent a campus-wide email.
The communication, which was sent on Friday, Sept. 8, addressed the College’s community following the protest and talk, while giving a summary of the events that occurred. According to the email, around 140 members of the WC community were in attendance to the speaker discussion regardless if they shared Dr. George’s beliefs or not.
“During the course of the talk, a small group of students entered intending to stop Professor George from speaking,” Sosulski said. “As planned in the case of disruption, a number of faculty and student affairs staff tried to reason with the protestors, insisting that they must permit the speaker to conclude his talk, after which there would be ample time for questions or rebuttals. Unfortunately, and despite repeated directives, the students who entered the event with the intention of disrupting the speaker refused to end their protest.”
Dr. Sosulski also wrote in the email that he then made the decision to shut down the event “to prevent further escalation.”
“The small number of students who chose to disrupt the lecture violated our clearly articulated community standards and with it the Washington College Student Honor Code,” the email said. “As would be the case with any violation of the Honor Code, they will be held accountable for their actions. Further within the email, Dr. Sosulski regarded the students who went into the protest, stating there would be disciplinary actions.”
Following this email, several students did receive notification regarding disciplinary actions for entering the talk via the protest.
Two of these students who received notice, several weeks after the initial email, are sophomore Cole Davis and senior Caryl Townsend, who say that a fellow undisclosed student identified them as members of the protest.
“As for direct communication of disciplinary action, I heard nothing for several days before I learned that Caryl and I were identified by a student,” Davis said.
With similar sentiments, Townsend stated that he heard from Dean of Students Greg Kikorian two to three weeks post-email.
After receiving this initial email from the Dean of Students, Davis felt several different emotions upon reflecting on the protest.
“I had a panic attack, I was distraught, what wrong had I done,” he said. “I was quite respectful to those inside, I went around apologizing for the ruckus after everything had cooled down at the event. I was dumbfounded, then livid.”
According to Davis, he then went in to meet with Dean Krikorian, where they discussed the events of the protest and talk, the charges against Davis, and what the next steps were.
Following this, Davis contacted Public Safety officer Sgt. Burton Brown who was at the protest to ensure safety for all participating members. Both Davis and Townsend conversed with the officer amicably during the events and Davis wanted to regard Sgt. Brown as a potential witness.
“I talked with the Sargent and got a statement supporting my lack of any real behavior outside of talking with him and my friends,” Davis said.
Similarly, Townsend was asked by Dean Krikorian to supply a written statement regarding his involvement within the protest. Townsend had then heard that Davis received a written statement to the Honor Board from Sgt. Burton to clear himself and also Townsend.
“[Davis] had been cleared from a statement they received from the public safety officer standing right next to us,” Townsend said. “When I later went and got that statement, I realized Sgt. Brown listed both me and this friend on the statement. Which should have cleared both of us.”
Though Davis was cleared with this statement, Townsend was not, and still had to go to trial for the charges against him, where they were dropped.
“…a little under a month later I had my ‘trial,’ which included them all introducing themselves just to tell me that I was cleared,” he said. “It was unneeded. I felt so humiliated, defeated. It felt like the actual process was not for my punishment, but to satisfy public eye around the College.”
Davis feels that Townsend’s case should have been dismissed when his was, due to the statement given by Sgt. Brown, as the “statement defended both of us equally.”
Regarding this statement, Sgt. Brown himself felt that it was the right thing to do. “The students came to the protest and when they came in, they asked me was it ok to stand next to me to listen to the speaker,” Sgt. Brown said. “They were very polite…When they told me that they had to go to the honor board I knew I have to speak for them because they did nothing wrong but stand there and talk to me. I had to speak on their behalf”
Following both cases being dismissed, Davis felt that the initial report given by a student who named both him and Townsend should have been investigated, as only “visibly trans students were targeted.”
“Everyone who was reported was visibly trans, my boyfriend who was right there with me the entire time was not reported, my other friend was not reported,” Davis said. “This was clearly a discriminatory motive and considering who all was reported by the student.”
Davis also feels that regardless of this process being over, he is “reflecting.”
“I am livid, I am disgusted, and wholly appalled,” he said. “My view of the school remains mainly unchanged due to the support and help from my professors and friends, but my view of some Admin is changed. I see them as distrustful, ignorant, and willfully turning a blind eye to reports that were clearly biased. I still love WAC as a whole, I could never see myself anywhere else but I also feel betrayed and like I and others lack support from a campus that preaches acceptance, support, and community.”
Townsend shared similar feelings about this situation regarding the support from the professors and students, regardless of how he feels being a student here.
“But I have never been this humiliated to be a student here,” Townsend said. “I admire the support I have received from peers and professors, and I think ultimately these are the people who have always sustained the community that thrives here.”