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Students Face Punishment for Anti-Bush Walkout

On Nov.2, 20 college students in Virginia staged a walkout on the World Can't Wait day of action. The school administration shut down the protest and threatened to expel them.
 
 
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Seven students at Hampton University in Virginia face disciplinary action for staging a walkout during the World Can't Wait day of action against the Bush administration one month ago. Shortly before they appear before a disciplinary hearing today, we speak with one of the walkout's main organizers.

A month ago today, 20 students at this historically black college staged a walkout as part of the World Can't Wait day of action protesting the Bush administration.

The students began handing out fliers and information on the Iraq war and the government's response to Hurricane Katrina disaster. Then armed university police shut down the protest.

But that is only the beginning of the story. Two and half weeks later, the college sent letters to seven of the students ordering them to attend a disciplinary hearing. They were accused of violating several statutes of the student code of student conduct, cajoling or proselytizing students; "distributing and/or posting unauthorized information," and "violating the administrative guidelines for student demonstrations."

The maximum penalty was severe: expulsion. The hearings are scheduled to take place this morning. After public outcry from around the country, the university announced yesterday the students will not be expelled. But it remains unclear how they will be disciplined.

We spoke to Bryan Ogilvie, a sophomore at Hampton University in Virginia majoring in entrepreneurship. He is a member of the school's Progressive Student Alliance.
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Amy Goodman: Can you talk about what you did?

Bryan Ogilvie: Well, actually, as you know, November 2 was the nationwide student walkout and protest of the Bush regime under the World Can't Wait organization. So a few of our students got in contact with some of the World Can't Wait people in New York, and we decided to bring that event out here on campus, because the student body here could really use some social awareness, we felt.

Basically, what we wanted to do was structure this event where we can address a multitude of issues around this entire Bush regime awareness. We addressed issues such as the cost of the war in Iraq, AIDS, homophobia, the prison-industrial complex, and a multitude of other things, but about half an hour into our event, we were just told we couldn't pass out any fliers. We were videotaped, and several students just had their I.D.s confiscated. So we weren't able to actually do too much of what we planned.

Juan Gonzalez: Now, Hampton University, this is not the first time it's had problems in terms of trying to squash student speech. I understand in 2003, there was a situation where the local newspaper tried to publish an article about a hundred health code violations at the school cafeteria, and the university seized the newspaper, fired the staff and tried to expel the student who wrote the article?

BO: Right. They basically confiscated all the issues of The Script , which is Hampton's university newspaper, on the basis that they misplaced a small article about the President, like instead of it being on the first page, it was on the third page. And that was their excuse for confiscating all of the newspapers off campus, but this ties into a whole lot of other things.

Earlier in 1993, students were protesting against the administration's decision to have George Bush, Sr., speak here. And in response to that, students were expelled. There's a whole history behind it.

JG: The president, Mr. Harvey, is a Bush appointee to Fannie Mae, and the keynote speaker at graduation this past spring was who?

BO: The keynote speaker at graduation -- actually, I'm not too sure, to tell you the truth. I would have to check.

JG: Well, I understood it was Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of H.U.D., who was the person who after Hurricane Katrina said that black folks in New Orleans would have to get used to the fact there's going to be fewer blacks living in New Orleans after the hurricane.

AG: Bryan, I wanted to say that we did call repeatedly to Hampton University administration to ask them to join us, but did get no response. Rosa Parks worked at Hampton?

BO: Yes, for one year. There was a small flier circulating, stating that along with some other facts about different things.

AG: Is it true that a detective followed one of the students after the protest to class?

BO: Yeah. If I'm not mistaken, some students were actually interrogated.

AG: After the protest?

BO: After.

AG: And so what do you expect will happen? It's actually in just a few minutes after this broadcast that you'll face a hearing?

BO: Well, I really don't think expulsion would be too intelligent, because we've been getting a lot of support luckily from a lot of groups nationwide, and I seriously doubt they would take it as far as expulsion.

AG: I think they have said yesterday, after a lot of questioning, that expulsion will not be your fate.

BO: Right. We're not too sure, and actually, I don't think we'll know all today. I think they'll get back to us after the hearing.

AG: Well, we'll continue to follow this story. Bryan Ogilvie, thanks for joining us.

BO: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez are the hosts of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!