Several Eastern Michigan University students face possible discipline after staging a sit-in at the university's student center after hours.
University spokesman Geoff Larcom says the university has been supportive of student-led protests following several cases of racist graffiti being found on campus. He emphasizes that any disciplinary action against students is not in response to the recent sit-in.
"The key distinction here is not that a protest occurred," Larcom said. "But that the students remained in a building after it was closed."
Students gathered to protest after several instances where racially-charged messages were found spray painted on EMU's campus.
Larcom says students were warned that remaining in the EMU student center after hours would amount to a violation of EMU's student conduct policy. Pursuing discipline is a matter, according to Larcom, of being sure the student conduct policy is applied universally.
EMU faculty members published an open letter to university administrators and an online petition to drop the case.
Professor Zachary Moore, who started the petition, worries three students in particular were targeted for the role they played in staging the sit-in.
"None of the other people were charged with any violations," Moore said. "And these three happen to be the students that have led these peaceful protests."
"Our mission is to educate students to feel empowered to leave such movements," Moore said. "And now we're punishing them. (I) cannot comprehend the action that's been taken."
The students in question could face punishment ranging from a formal warning to a year-long suspension from the university.
Larcom says he cannot discuss the specific details of the ongoing investigation due to federal privacy rules.