A University of Georgia student is facing disciplinary action related to a Moral Monday protest at the state Capitol last month.
Adam Veale was arrested, along with fellow Athenians Tim Denson and Adam Lasilla, at a Mar. 2 demonstration urging the state government to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid.
Veale’s hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday. Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link, state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), Georgia NAACP President Francys Johnson, Denson and other Moral Monday protesters and Athens for Everyone members are testifying on his behalf.
Specifically, Veale said he is charged with violating sections 3.6 and 3.8 of the university code: obstructing the free movement of others and failing to obey a law enforcement officer. He said he was offered an “informal resolution” that included community service, meeting with a faculty member to discuss his actions, writing letters to potential schools and employers to explain his record, and a conduct charge on his permanent record. He declined.
Four members of Freedom University—an organization that offers college-level classes to undocumented immigrants who are barred from attending UGA—also faced disciplinary action for occupying a classroom past regular hours in January. Overall, nine people were arrested during that action.
In a recent email exchange, Veale said university discipline could have a “chilling effect” on campus activism:
UGA’s code of conduct says ‘The University of Georgia fully supports the marketplace of ideas and shall enforce its conduct regulations in accordance with the freedoms of speech and expression protected by the United States and Georgia Constitutions.’ Our action at the capitol was an act of symbolic political speech, which should be protected under the first amendment. On paper, my action at the Capitol matches the violations alleged by the office of student conduct. In context, this was a non-violent, peaceful demonstration to let our governor and state legislators know that we won’t stand by while they deny 650,000 Georgians access to the healthcare they deserve.
Gov. Deal and our state legislature have denied Medicaid expansion to 650,000 Georgians, seemingly because they don’t agree with the President’s healthcare law. Meanwhile, hospitals are closing and thousands of Georgians are dying every year because they are being denied access to healthcare that they’ve already paid for. Our action at the capitol was to let Governor Deal, our legislators, and the whole state know that we won’t stand for this injustice anymore. By bringing conduct charges against me, the University of Georgia is letting me know that they don’t want their students engaging in non-violent political protest.
These conduct charges that the university is pursuing will have a serious chilling effect on campus. Students will see me get punished by the university and will think twice before participating in a similar act of non-violent political speech. Non-violent protest is a crucial element of our political process. I am concerned that UGA is trying to scare its students away from engaging in this kind of protest.
During the hearing—which is closed to the public—Veale will be judged by a panel of two students and a faculty member. Penalties could include suspension or expulsion.
He has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. Friday at the Arch to discuss the verdict.
UGA is prohibited by law from commenting on student judiciary proceedings.
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