University of Georgia philosophy PhD student and teaching assistant Irami Osei-Frimpong did not violate the university’s Student Code of Conduct, a University Judiciary panel of two students and a faculty member ruled on Monday.
The panel found that Osei-Frimpong did not furnish false information or omit facts on his application about his attendance at the University of Chicago or his arrest during a 2011 protest, which a judge later ruled unconstitutional.
The Office of Student Conduct launched a three-month-long investigation into Osei-Frimpong’s past after receiving an anonymous tip that he had lied on his application to graduate school about his academic history and criminal record.
The investigation was launched shortly after recent UGA graduate Andrew Lawrence, who had written an article for a right-wing website on Osei-Frimpong’s racial views that angered conservatives, claimed that a donor had threatened to withhold $2.5 million as a result of Osei-Frimpong’s comments. Although UGA’s Equal Opportunity Office had cleared him of violating the university’s discrimination policy because his remarks were made on his own time and protected by the First Amendment, after Lawrence’s tweet, UGA said it was “vigorously exploring all available legal options” with the state attorney general’s office.
Osei-Frimpong said the charges were in retaliation for his political activism, which the judiciary panel said it did not take into account in its ruling.
“The Office of Student Conduct adjudicated this case like any other, in compliance with all applicable policies and procedures,” UGA Executive Director of Media Communications Greg Trevor said Tuesday. “We respect the student conduct process and the outcome.”
The panel’s report states that Osei-Frimpong’s arrest was “indisputable.” However, the panel did grapple with whether his arrest was for a crime—he said it was a civil ordinance violation—and whether he was ever formally charged.
“The application for admission specifically asks for disclosure of any charges or convictions of a crime, and since Mr. Osei-Frimpong was not charged, the Occupy Wall Street arrest does not fall within the purview of the application question,” the report states. “… The Panel does not reach a conclusion of whether Mr. Osei-Frimpong’s arrest was for a civil or criminal matter; however, the Panel does find that a reasonable person could conclude the underlying action resulting in his arrest was not a crime.”
The panel also concluded Osei-Frimpong did not purposely omit his attendance at the University of Chicago, Tufts University and the Goethe Institute, a global nonprofit that promotes the study of the German language abroad.
Osei-Frimpong audited classes at Tufts and Geothe but was not enrolled. He was a political science PhD student at the University of Chicago from 2011–2013. According to the report, Osei-Frimpong said he thought his attendance there was not relevant to his application for the philosophy graduate school program.
“He only thought to disclose his previous attendance at institutions where he had engaged in an educational program related to philosophy,” the report states, adding that the omissions probably did not benefit him.
During an Apr. 26 hearing, Osei-Frimpong pointed out that his attendance at the University of Chicago was not a secret. One of the individuals who wrote a letter of recommendation to UGA was a former University of Chicago colleague. Investigators did not look at those letters of recommendation.
“Therefore, Mr. Osei-Frimpong’s omission of attendance at the University of Chicago from the list of institutions attended did not receive adequate review by the complaining party,” the report states.
Osei-Frimpong said the charges were orchestrated by university administration after conservative alumni threatened to withhold donations. He listed those administrators in an email on Tuesday to Flagpole: Alan Dorsey, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; Michael Raeber, executive director of the UGA Legal Affairs Office; Beth Bailey, senior associate general counsel of the UGA Legal Affairs Office; Suzanne Barbour, dean of the Graduate School; and Barrett Malone, the investigator in the Office of Student Conduct who put together the case against Osei-Frimpong.
“According to the investigative report, all of these people had the discretionary power to resolve this situation months ago; instead, they loaded down a panel of students and one staff person with the responsibility with presenting, adjudicating, and dismissing the Administration’s hastily contrived case.” Osei-Frimpong told Flagpole. “It strikes me that either each one of these people is very bad at his/her job—while fleecing taxpayer dollars—or their job was to hassle me and send a message about how the University Administration retaliates against political speech.”
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