Irami Osei-Frimpong, a PhD student at the University of Georgia, thanks the crowd of supporters before his hearing with the University. Protestors supporting Irami Osei-Frimpong gathered in front of the Miller Learning Center in Athens, Georgia on April 26, 2019. They not only showed support Osei-Frimpong, but also rallied for academic freedom, free speech and free inquiry. (Photo/Daniela Rico)

More than three months after he came under fire for comments he made on social media, University of Georgia philosophy Ph.D. candidate Irami Osei-Frimpong had a hearing for a separate incident led by the University Judiciary on April 26.

UGA Office of Student Conduct Director Barrett Malone charged Osei-Frimpong with completing a university form dishonestly and providing false information to a University office. These charges are based on Osei-Frimpong’s UGA Graduate School application.

As of press time, the judiciary has not released a decision regarding Osei-Frimpong’s charges.

Charges from the OSC

  • Charge 1: Providing “false information to any University official [or] office.”
  • Charge 2: Completing the graduate school application “dishonestly,” which includes omitting facts.

What we know

  • Osei-Frimpong said “No” in response to the application question: “Have you ever been charged with or convicted of or pled guilty or solo contenders to a crime other than a minor traffic offense?” He was arrested for curfew violation during an Occupy protest in Chicago in 2011, but a judge deemed the arrest unconstitutional.
  • Osei-Frimpong listed University of California-Berkeley and Brandeis University in response to the prompt: “List all institutions of higher education attended” Osei-Frimpong was previously enrolled at the University of Chicago and Tufts University.

Osei-Frimpong called the UGA Office of Student Conduct investigation a “fishing expedition,” according to the OSC Final Investigative Report. He said UGA had conducted the investigation in retaliation for the controversy that ensued following comments some people said were racist.

In the OSC report, Malone said the online comments were “not relevant” to the investigation and did not influence the OSC’s decision to investigate Osei-Frimpong.

UGA was notified that Osei-Frimpong had possibly provided false information on his graduate student application by an anonymous person who contacted the Office of the Dean of Franklin College of Arts and Sciences by phone. Malone began the formal investigation process on March 4.

Legal advocacy groups have expressed support for Osei-Frimpong. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and PEN America sent a letter to UGA President Jere Morehead on April 8 asking UGA to end the investigation into Osei-Frimpong. The letter argues UGA’s investigation was motivated in retaliation for Osei-Frimpong’s political speech.

“[T]here is substantial reason to doubt that discipline could be imposed without abridging the First Amendment,” the letter states.

On campus, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate passed a resolution condemning the use of “university investigation mechanisms” in retaliation against UGA students or employees who use “political speech.” United Campus Workers of Georgia held a rally in support of Osei-Frimpong before the hearing on April 26.

“This isn’t about me,” Osei-Frimpong said to the group. “It’s about freeing minds and allowing people to talk.”

The rally and hearing come after Franklin Faculty Senators accepted a report on April 23 alleging UGA administrators intimidated faculty who were involved with research of the remains uncovered during an expansion project at Baldwin Hall in 2015.

The UGA University Judiciary panel will notify Osei-Frimpong of the decision. If he is found in violation of the Student Code of Conduct, sanctions range from community service to expulsion from UGA.

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