‘I will not squat in Casteen’s office’

The "Charlottesville 17," the students who staged a four-day sit-in demanding a $10.72/hour "living wage" for UVA employees, got some punishments late last night. According to a story in this morning's Cavalier Daily, each of the 17 must write three apology/thanks essays to the University administration, the police, and the Madison Hall workers whose work they interrupted.
The sit-in beckoned big names including both Democratic candidates in the race for Charlottesville City Council as well as best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich.
Despite the big guns, UVA's top administrator, John Casteen, ultimately took a dim view of univited overnight interlopers in his office, according to tapes of the negotiations.
Last night's punishments come from the student-run University Judiciary Committee. The students– and one professor arrested earlier in the protest– may still face Albemarle County criminal charges following their April 15 arrests.
May 2 update: The Living Wage Campaign has released its portrayal of last night's trial. It is posted here as the first "comment."
Later May 2:The Charlottesville 17 face trespassing charges in Charlottesville District Court May 22 at 10am, according to a protest spokeswoman. #

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ââ?¬â?? MAY 2, 2006
Sit-in students found guilty by University Judiciary Committee, sanctioned with letters of apology and thanks; Living Wage Celebration and Rally at 4:30 today
Charlottesville / Tuesday, May 2, 2006 ââ?¬â?? From 7pm until past midnight last night, the University Judiciary Committee held an open trial for the 17 members of the Living Wage Campaign at UVA who staged a sit-in in Madison Hall starting April 12.
The UJC charges were brought by the Office of the Dean of Students and by undergraduate Blake Marvin. The first phase of the trial was dedicated to the question of whether students were in fact guilty of the three charges they all faced: unauthorized entry, intentional disruption and failure to comply with officials. The students plead not guilty on all counts, expect for one student who plead guilty to unauthorized entry.
For the first charge, unauthorized occupation of a University facility, the students' council presented evidence illustrating how the enforcement of this infringement was arbitrary, as students had been "authorized to spend the night in Madison Hall" for several days, argued Richard Rose, one of the fourth-year students defending the accused.
Dean Penny Rue, a witness for the complainants, testified that the administration "respected the rights of the students to assemble."
Rose argued: "Wielding Standard 3 in such a manner is unfair. It was not clear to the students when their occupation became unauthorized."
In response to the charge of intentional disruption, the defense presented testimony by Guy Lopez, who participated in meetings in Madison Hall for nine hours during the sit-in and testified that he was "absolutely not" distracted from his business by the students ââ?¬â?? only by the police presence that made entry difficult and harassed him inside the building.
Lopez stated, pointing to one of the witnesses present: "I think it was actually Detective Officer Roach here”Šhe actually physically grabbed me."
The accused students explained their deliberate efforts to be respectful of the business of the space, as fourth-year Hannah Rubenstein affirmed: "We were as non-disruptive as possible."
Finally, with regard to the charge of failing to comply with the direction of University officials, the defense established that good-faith efforts were made by the students to comply with the fire code and all rules imposed by the police and administration.
This effort was made, Rubenstein testified, despite the fact that, "it was difficult to know what the rules were, as they were inconsistently enforced and never clearly articulated."
Dean Rue's testimony that the situation was dynamic and called for a changing set of rules, the counselors argued, substantiated this claim.
While Kevin Simowitz and Andrew Mausert-Mooney were also charged with disorderly conduct, Rose pointed out "there has been no evidence provided by the complainant" that their behavior was any different than that of their peers.
Mausert-Mooney was the only student charged with destruction of University property, for which he was acquitted. He explained that during his arrest he witnessed a police officer break a leg of furniture and he testifies: "I heard an officer say 'get him with destruction of property.' I thought he was just saying it for intimidation purposes, because I thought it was pretty clear that I hadn't touched it.
There was an officer between me and the couch". The trial panel found Simowitz and Mausert-Mooney not guilty of the additional charges.
The trial then moved to a sanctioning phase for the three guilty charges that the 17 faced. The complainants called Blake Marvin to testify why he, although not incident to the sit in, felt it necessary to bring charges against the students.
Marvin argued he felt it was his duty to be "proactive" in bringing the attention of the UJC to violations of the standards of conduct and that "the students here today stepped outside the bounds of noble behavior."
The defense suggested that his affiliation with a group opposed to the living wage suggested ideological motivations for bringing charges.
The complainants also called Dean Rue to characterize the behavior of the students with regard to the administration.
She said that the situation was sometimes tense and that they were at times disrespectful, but she refused to give examples of particular instances, adding that she probably would have acted similarly in such a situation.
The defense presented the scope and depth of the protesters' service and social justice work at the University, in the community, in the Gulf Coast (five of the seventeen spent spring break rebuilding homes near New Orleans) and abroad. Mausert-Mooney explained the ongoing negotiations in which the Living Wage Campaign is currently engaged, including a meeting with Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard Sandridge and others last Friday, during which the Living Wage Campaign presented a compromise proposal, available at www.uvalivingwage.net. These testimonies were aimed at showing how serious the students are about engaging in substantive dialogue with the University, which has been their goal for the past eight years.
Rose argued in his closing statement, "We need more students like this.
We need more students who believe in things and who stand up for what they believe in."
After further deliberation by the student trial panel, sit-in participants were sanctioned with writing three letters of "apology and thanks" by May 15.
One must be directed toward the University of Virginia police, a second to the five employees of Madison Hall whose work was "directly disrupted" by the sit-in, and finally, a third, of at least 500 words, to administrators "for their patience" and alleged willingness to engage in dialogue.
Sit-in participants also received an "oral admonition" from the judges, in which they expressed respect for the students' rights to free speech but insisted that they "consider the consequences of [their] actions."
This sanction is subject to a process of appellate review.
The full text of the sanctions should be released soon.
"The defense established that our actions were undertaken in the spirit of the law and with respect for the University of Virginia," Zack Fields, one of the accused, said.
With regard to the sanction of writing letters of apology and thanks, Prof. Tico Braun, an organizer of faculty support, commented after the trial: "The UJC is forcing these students to tell the President something that they clearly do not believe to be the truth.
Students are asking students to lie. This is deeply humiliating."
A statement with further reaction from sit-in students about the trial's findings will be available early evening on our website.
Today at 4:30 on the street-side of the Rotunda, living wage supporters will gather to celebrate the growing strength of the living wage movement, read testimonials from University workers, offer an update on negotiations, a reaction to last night's trial, and will encourage President Casteen to accept the compromise proposal presented on Friday.
Starting at 7am this morning, students made a "banner fence" outside Madison Hall with living wage quotes to further display the widespread support they have.
For the latest living wage news and background materials, visit www.uvalivingwage.net.
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