YAF chairman punished for releasing names
Kristopher Del Campo, chairman of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) organization at DePaul, was placed on judicial probation after the online publication of 13 students' names involved in vandalizing an anti-abortion rights display.
In a Feb. 27 email posted on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's website, Dean of Students Art Munin notified Del Campo that he had been placed on judicial probation until Summer Quarter 2013 for "Disorderly, Violent, Intimidating or Dangerous Behavior to Self or Others" as well as failing to comply with DePaul's judicial process compliance, both cited as violations of DePaul's Code of Student Responsibility. "Any further infractions of the Code of Student Responsibility during your probationary period may result in additional disciplinary action including removal from the university," Munin wrote.
Cindy Lawson, vice president of public relations and communications at DePaul, confirmed that Del Campo received the list of students as per item 7 of the "Student Rights Within the Judicial Review Process" section of DePaul's Code of Student Responsibility. Item 7 is "the right to have reasonable access to information specific to one's case." However, Lawson said that it is not standard Public Safety policy to publicly release students' names after the judicial review process except to any involved parties, in this case including Del Campo.
The national YAF website published the list of students involved in the vandalism in an article Feb. 5. Although Del Campo has not admitted to releasing the report naming the students to the YAF website, the Feb. 27 email written by Munin reiterates the no-contact restriction of the 13 students "named in the Public Safety Supplemental Report (Case #N13-01-52) that (he was) were given by Dominic Rollins, Assistant Dean of Students."
DePaul's definition of "Disorderly, Violent, Intimidating or Dangerous Behavior to Self or Others" includes "causing significant emotional harm, bullying, and/or endangering the safety, health or life of any person on campus through actions or words." One of the students involved in the anti-abortion display removal, who spoke in the Feb. 11 issue The DePaulia on the condition of anonymity, said he or she had "lost count" of the online threats directed to the students involved, which describe "bringing us to justice, we should pay." The student said the public release of the names "has created an unsafe environment based on threats (and) comments we have been receiving, and DePaul is liable for that."
Del Campo declined to comment when contacted by The DePaulia. Brendan Newell, vice chairman of DePaul's YAF chapter, said the national YAF organization and FIRE advised the group not to comment until further notice. "None of the members including Kris are going to respond until YAF national believes it is the right time," Newell said. However, Del Campo told Radio Fox News that he "lost (his) dignity as a person" and that he is speaking out because he doesn't want other conservatives to go through the same ordeal. "They told me I couldn't say anything and I had to keep all of this confidential," Del Campo told Radio Fox News. "The dean told me not to fight ... He told me it wasn't worth it - that I just have 13 weeks left at the university. But I'm going to fight this. This is wrong. This university has a problem with free speech rights and this time they met a challenger who is not backing down."
Included in the probation is a "no contact restriction" clause prohibiting Del Campo from having communications with the 13 students named in the previous investigation, and doing so "may result in disciplinary action," Munin wrote. Del Campo is required to participate in an "educational project" that involves writing a three-page reflective letter "as if a year has passed since the incident," according to the email.
"It is unfortunate that this incident is part of your educational career," Munin said in his email. "However, it is our hope that it will not define your entire experience."
The latest development stems from an incident that occurred Jan. 22 when students threw away 500 blue and pink flags symbolizing U.S. abortions set up in DePaul's Lincoln Park quad by YAF members on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion.
After obtaining a permit and erecting the display that morning, several YAF members returned at 7 p.m. to remove the flags only to find that they had been thrown in the trash. After speaking to a Public Safety officer who had witnessed students removing the flags at around 4 p.m., Del Campo filed an incident report and the university launched an investigation.
A copy of DePaul Public Safety's "Investigative Supplemental Report" dated Jan. 31 named 13 students involved in the vandalism who, according to the photocopied document published on YAF's website, had "all admitted in person to participating" in the act after voluntarily turning themselves in to Public Safety.
"Instead of supporting a student whose free speech rights were violated, DePaul University bullied Kristopher Del Campo for daring to expose the 13 vandals," Young America's Foundation President Ron Robinson said in an article on YAF's website. "Subsequently, they put him through a Soviet-style show trial."
FIRE, whose online mission statement is "to defend and sustain individual rights" at American college campuses, "including freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty and sanctity of conscience," submitted a letter to DePaul President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M. Feb. 21 defending Del Campo and the "right to publically identify students" involved in the vandalism. Both YAF and FIRE have called for the university to drop the charges against Del Campo.
"If DePaul does not quickly rectify its errors here, this case will dramatically chill student expression, if it has not already done so," FIRE associate director Peter Bonilla wrote in the letter. "What student will speak out and criticize those who suppress his or her rights if the result is a potentially life-altering charge of violent or intimidating behavior? And is DePaul truly comfortable with telling victims of a crime that they may not share the names of those who committed the crime against them? FIRE asks that DePaul University immediately drop its charges against Kristopher Del Campo, reaffirm his right to free expression, and make clear that students may speak out when their rights are suppressed by fellow students without fear of punishment for doing so."
According to the YAF article, Del Campo plans to appeal his judicial probation, although he is set to tentatively graduate after this spring quarter.
Robert Shibley, FIRE's senior vice president, said FIRE was not taking legal action against DePaul at this time. However, Shibley said it was a "real abuse of policy" to call the release of names "Disorderly, Violent, Intimidating or Dangerous Behavior to Self or Others," and that Del Campo's probation "sets a terrible precedent for students who are victims of crime on campus."
In a Feb. 26 letter sent to FIRE and obtained by The DePaulia, Cynthia Summers, interim vice president for student affairs, wrote that DePaul's experiences in the last few months related to this incident have been "challenging for all involved" and that it "would not be appropriate to discuss details of this individual student matter." However, Summers wrote that if Del Campo feels the judicial review process has not been in accord with DePaul's policies, "he should certainly explore taking advantage of (his) appeal right."
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