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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.


To stay updated on this issue, follow @redandblack and @sdonovan5 on Twitter.

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(3) comments

Irami

If anyone has any questions about my Occupy arrest: The question asked if I had ever been charged with or convicted of a crime. The curfew violation wasn't a crime. It's a municipal code violation. It's like not taking your trashcans back from the curb after trash day. The judge threw it out because I shouldn't have been arrested to begin with. At most, I should have been given a citation and sent on my way. And that wasn't even supposed to happen because the code had been selectively enforced against Occupy protesters..Another reason the judge threw it out. Here is the judge's motion. For those armchair lawyers at home, notice the City of Chicago is listed at the "Plaintiff". This is a civil action, not a crime.
(https://blogs.chicagotribune.com/.../order-by-judge...)


As to listing the Universities, I've enrolled in three Universities and have substantively audited classes at three OTHER Universities. (That's what you do when you are young, broke, but you still think that you want to be a professor.) The question on the application asked to list all of the institutions of higher education I have attended. Office of Student Conduct is upset because I didn't list Tufts University, because I audited a German class there, and the University of Chicago because it was in Political Science. I have two other degrees in Philosophy, and since I was applying to a Philosophy Department, I listed those. I try to err towards humility on official forms.

What's striking is that the Administration didn't ask me nor the Philosophy Department for any transcripts or explanations before filing charges with the Office of Student Conduct.
When they did, I immediately gave them my University of Chicago transcript and a copy of the Judge's motion, which is not that hard to find, so I have to ask how hard they looked. When the Administration finally did tell the Philosophy Department, the Philosophy Department admissions committee looked at my transcript and wrote a letter that since I did well at the University of Chicago-- which I did-- the added transcript wouldn't have change my status. I really don't understand how people could think that I was trying to hide the University of Chicago, because one of my letters of recommendation came from a colleague at the University of Chicago. (At the hearing, the University administrator who filed the charges admitted that she didn't actually read the letter of recommendation.)

Anyway, if I had listed all of the schools that I "attended", that is, enrolled and/or audited, it would include University of Minnesota, Harvard Law School, Tufts University, the Goethe Institute, and probably one or two others that I can't think of right now. And if I had listed all of those institutions, I'd be hauled in for inflating my academic record. So there is literally no combination of schools I can list that doesn't have me charged by a hostile administration.
Asking me to list all of my institutions is like asking a military brat or a missionary kid, "So, where you are from?" and then criminalizing them when they can't give you a neat answer.

The administration is upset because me talking about race on my youtube show costs them some money. This is all governed by that. But I'm going to keep talking about race on my youtube show, until Black communities are made whole in these United States.

rgresser

I may not agree with comments he made, but as long as he allowed discussion with differing opinions being able to be expressed without penalty or personal attacks, I support his right to make those comments. I find the application question over stepping. It is too intrusive to ask if s person was arrested or charged with a crime. Often, an arrest nay be made or a charge leveled before all the facts exonerate the person. Furthermore, if s person has been convicted of or pled guilty or nolo contender to a crime, they are not required to disclose it if they received a pardon or the conviction/plea was expunged. The only exception to this normally is s position of public trust, such as police or fire. In some if those cases even it is not required if it is older than a little listed time period (e.g., last 15 years). I have taken classes where a professor was blatantly biased and even went so far as to issue lower grades for papers written that disagreed with her political views, even if justified through excellent references. Our society is treding down a slippery slope where we have to try to teach in a monotone, vanilla, all lessons fit all type of education. Teachers need to be willing to encourage discussion of alternative viewpoints and never allow attacks of viewpoints, writings, or stated opinions unless the positions expressed are made with little/no academic basis. Even then, the discussion needs to remain civil. We need to push harder to return our society to embrace tge tenets of civil discourse if in the midst of disagreement. Our society has never overly polarized and we have been trained to act like victims anytime someone argued with our personal opinions or show that our ideas are not possible based upon a variety of evidence. It is okay to be wrong. In fact, we learn more from losing it being wrong and processing what happened, what went wrong, and formulating new ideas using that information. Universities are supposed to be centers if learning and part of that is discussing and learning differing viewpoints. The only way to solve problems is to work together and often take pieces of different positions/ideas to design the best solution!!

Thunderboltoftruth

You have to disclose all arrests and charges, even if they were later dismissed. Even if they were expunged, nol pros’d, pardoned, etc. This isn’t a legal standard being questioned, it’s a University policy standard. He lied on the application, both in not disclosing the arrest (it’s questionable if it should have been included, but it is what it is), and in not disclosing his schooling at Tufts and UChicago. That’s what’s going to get him, not the arrest. He’s probably going to be put on probation and suspended, and his TA contract will not be re-let. It will stop there. We can debate what the motives were behind the report that led to the investigation, but the fact remains that he did lie on the application. He’s not being directly punished for his speech, and it will be a major stretch to tie this to his comments made previously.

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