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UGA Won’t Punish Student-Activist Adam Veale Over Protest Arrest

Adam Veale was one of a dozen protesters who knelt down on the Georgia Capitol steps, held out their arms to be handcuffed and were led away to jail.

They were part of a Mar. 2 Moral Monday protest urging the state government to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid to the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who earn too much money to qualify for the current program, but not enough to purchase health insurance on the private market, even with Obamacare subsidies.

Not only does Veale face a criminal charge—his court date hasn’t been set, and he’s hopeful it will be dropped—but the University of Georgia sophomore political science major faced university discipline as well. He turned down an “informal resolution” (sort of a plea deal) involving community service and a black mark on his permanent record, and so faced a disciplinary hearing today.

UGA accused Veale of violating two sections of the university code of conduct: obstructing others’ movement and disobeying a law enforcement officer. It wasn’t politically motivated, said UGA Vice President for Public Affairs Tom Jackson—any student who is arrested faces such proceedings, even the many, many students caught drinking underage downtown. 

“All students that are reported to student conduct are reviewed for action,” Jackson told Flagpole. “Yes, every arrest of a student in Clarke County is reported to UGA. Remember that less than 10 percent of all student conduct actions result in hearings. Most are informally resolved.”

Four students involved with Freedom University—an organization that offers classes to undocumented students who are ineligible to attend UGA—who were arrested for occupying a UGA classroom past its closing time in January accepted an informal resolution. Veale decided to fight it.

“Somebody should be punished,” Tim Denson of the progressive group Athens for Everyone said at a rally for Veale on Friday. “Somebody should be disciplined. But it is not Adam Veale. It is the governor, and it is every single legislator who’s standing in the way of 650,000 Georgians getting health care.”

“He deserves a reward [for getting involved in politics], not a slap on the wrist,” said Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link, who’s closely aligned with Denson’s group.

“The reward should be 650,000 Georgians getting the health care they paid for,” Veale said, alluding to the fact that Georgia taxpayers are funding expanded Medicaid in other states while getting nothing in return. And the University System Board of Regents should overturn its ban on undocumented students raised in Georgia attending UGA, he added.

UGA officials have denied it, but Veale and his supporters believe he was targeted for his political views, which could have a chilling effect on campus activism.

“This was an unnecessary process that polices speech in a way I don’t think was fair,” he said today.

Before he knew what the verdict would be, Veale called the judicial panel of two students and a faculty member “very good at being impartial.” And after almost a full day of hearing evidence and deliberating, they ruled that he didn’t break any university rules.