Brown University's disciplinary body today ruled that 56 undergraduates are guilty of disruption for attempting to make a citizen's arrest of two CIA representatives during a job-recruiting session on campus.
The University Council on Student Affairs penalized the 56 with "university sanctions," meaning that any further disruption may result in expulsion.
"The students raised legitimate and appropriate concerns about the recruiting process at Brown and certain CIA activities," the UCSA said in a statement. It went on, however, to say that Brown would be "a weaker institution if its founding principles were not upheld."
One of the 56 students, senior Sandor Katz of New York, reacted to the verdict by saying: "It's a question of putting public relations ahead of the ideal that the university is always paying lip service to -- namely the free and open exchange of ideas."
The disciplinary board found not guilty eight students who had not been in the room when the attempted arrest occurred. A different panel of the board reprimanded the only graduate student in the group.
The 65 students went before the university's judicial body Wednesday night on charges of disrupting CIA recruiter Steve Conn's Nov. 26 campus presentation.
"It is not a complicated question," said prosecutor and dean of student life Eric Widmer. "It is not a political question . . . . It is simply a question of whether an invited guest of the university was interrupted and prevented from speaking in the middle of his presentation."
During the 8 1/2-hour open hearing, the students had raised questions about the Central Intelligence Agency's alleged involvement in illegal activities and attempted to establish a right to make a citizen's arrest.
The students' defense also questioned whether the CIA job-recruiting session had violated the spirit of faculty rules that call for recruiters on campus to be willing to engage in "a free and open exchange of ideas."
The purpose of the attempted citizen's arrest, said one of the 65, senior Flis Schauffler of Bethesda, was "to clarify recruitment policy, clarify free speech, who abridges whom when.
"But I don't see that as central. I think what's more critical is citizens taking responsibility for their government's agencies and saying those agencies have to be accountable."
In his opening statement, Dean Widmer argued, "When our protections are abruptly ignored, the loss is to Brown as an autonomous, free and liberal institution. It cannot be tolerated."
The students had petitioned Brown to move the recruiting session to a bigger hall and turn it into an open forum.
University representatives met with some of the students several times in an attempt to reach a compromise.
Conn agreed to extend his talk by 15 minutes and answer questions for 30 minutes.
Students testified that they felt obligated to attempt the citizen's arrest when it became evident that not all their concerns would be addressed at the meeting and that not all students who wanted to could hear Conn.
Twelve minutes into Conn's presentation, a whistle blew and many of the legal maximum of 100 students packed in the basement room stood up and told Conn he was under arrest. An official quickly escorted Conn and recruiter Roger Sampson out of the room.
The students' star witness was former CIA agent John Stockwell, author of "In Search of Enemies."
Stockwell, former chief of the CIA's Angola task force, lauded the students' action and testified that the agency is conducting a covert war in Nicaragua.
The students used Stockwell's testimony as evidence that the CIA is involved in illegal activities. Solicitation to work for the CIA, they argued, is thus a felony.