Whether it’s a political witch hunt or a case of academic dishonesty, University of Georgia teaching assistant Irami Osei-Frimpong will learn next week whether he’s been suspended or expelled from the philosophy PhD program.
A panel of five students held a six-hour hearing Friday on the Office of Student Conduct’s charges that he omitted his attendance at the University of Chicago and a 2011 trespassing arrest at a protest from his application to graduate school, which UGA officials say call into question his academic record.
Osei-Frimpong has said that he didn’t think either was relevant, because he studied political science, not philosophy, in Chicago, and the UGA philosophy department has said including that information would only have made his application stronger. The misdemeanor charge against him was dismissed as unconstitutional.
The charges, he says, are retaliation for the racially charged statements he’s made on social media, which drew the ire of conservative alumni after a right-wing website publicized them.
But numerous local, state and national progressive and free-speech groups, from the United Campus Workers of Georgia to the ACLU, have backed Osei-Frimpong and told administrators that political statements made on his own time are protected by the First Amendment. Read more about the background here.
So many spectators wanted to attend the hearing, held in a small conference room in Memorial Hall, that an overflow room was set up at the Tate Center where interested people could listen in (but not watch).
The hearing started at about 2:30 p.m. and ended close to 9 p.m. The judiciary panel is expected to reach a decision within the next week. If Osei-Frimpong is found guilty, he could be put on probation, suspended or expelled.
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