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41 protesters in Brown Divest Coalition put on University probation after sit-in

Following non-disciplinary meetings, 20 JFCN students required to submit paper on divestment policy

Student protestors from both groups claim these discrepancies are escalatory and aimed at deterring future demonstrations.
Student protestors from both groups claim these discrepancies are escalatory and aimed at deterring future demonstrations.

The 41 students affiliated with Brown Divest Coalition who were arrested at a Dec. 11 sit-in were placed on University probation on March 6 following disciplinary hearings with the University, marking an escalated University response to the second sit-in for divestment this academic year. 

The students were placed on probation following “administrative review meetings,” which have potential disciplinary consequences. As a part of their probation terms, each of the 41 students must submit a personal values statement or create informational material about Brown’s protest policy. 

The twenty students participating in a previous Nov. 8 sit-in under the student group Jews for Ceasefire Now were not put on probation but were asked to write a 10-page paper on the University’s divestment procedures either individually or as a group.

Both sit-ins called on President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 to divest from companies tied to “Israeli military occupation” and support a ceasefire in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.


According to BDC spokespeople, the University claimed the 41 students violated three student conduct codes, including “failure to comply,” “unauthorized entry or use of space” and “violations of law.” When on University probation, “any incidents that occur during that time will be scrutinized more heavily and sanctioned more seriously,” according to the Student Conduct Office.

All 41 students pleaded not guilty to “willful trespassing within school buildings” at arraignments on Feb. 12 and Feb. 14, The Herald previously reported. At a March faculty meeting, Paxson reaffirmed the University’s plans to pursue charges. 

Student protestors from both groups claim these discrepancies are escalatory and aimed at deterring future demonstrations.

“Brown’s student conduct process involves an individualized assessment of each case and the circumstances surrounding the alleged conduct code violations,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “It also considers the cumulative impact of repeated disruptions to the University community and operations.”

Following the shooting of Hisham Awartani ’25 and two other Palestinian students in Vermont, the University dropped criminal charges against the 20 students affiliated with JFCN. Paxson previously stated that the decision was made to “take the level of tension and upsetness down a notch” on campus.

Clark declined to comment more specifically on the disciplinary proceedings, citing federal privacy law.

Disciplinary administrative review versus non-disciplinary expectation meeting 

On Nov. 27, students affiliated with JFCN received a letter informing them of a “non-disciplinary expectation meeting,” according to documents reviewed by The Herald. The 20 students were split into four groups “to have conversations about our sit-in and our responsibilities in the Brown Community,” JFCN Spokesperson Sam Stewart ’24 said.

On Jan. 26, BDC-affiliated students were asked to have one-on-one “administrative review meetings” with assistant deans that had potential disciplinary consequences. When the students asked for group non-disciplinary expectation meetings, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards denied their requests, according to emails reviewed by The Herald.

“OSCSS has considered your request and determined that the circumstances are different from the case you referenced, including a larger disruptive impact on the University community and communication from the University about potential disciplinary consequences,” the email reads.


Prior to the University Hall’s closing, Paxson informed the 41 students in a letter they could be subjected to “arrest, criminal charges and review per the University’s conduct procedures,” The Herald previously reported.

University Spokesperson Brian Clark previously told The Herald that “the University fully expects to recommend more significant criminal misdemeanor charges for any future incidents after the Dec. 11 sit-in.”

When informing the students that they were to undergo the student disciplinary process, the University communicated that they were considering holding the group responsible for “disruption of University activities.” According to BDC members, the University ultimately found they were not responsible for this particular charge.

“We took every step we could while we were inside University Hall to not be disruptive,” said Isabella Garo ’24, a BDC spokesperson. 

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BDC also requested to have lawyers present during their disciplinary proceedings given their ongoing criminal investigation, according to Garo and spokesperson Kate Kuli ’25. The University’s student conduct procedures for disciplinary proceedings state that “students may retain legal counsel for advice outside our process, however attorneys may not participate in any aspect of the process.”

Garo expressed concern for potential self-incrimination in these meetings: “I could respond to something just wanting to be honest and wanting to actually talk to the dean about my actions, which is the point of these meetings, and I might be accidentally incriminating myself in a criminal justice proceeding,” Garo said.

Clark did not address whether these discussions could be used in criminal proceedings.

Value statements, divestment policies papers

Following their University hearings, both JFCN and BDC were given a set of educational terms to meet. The Student Conduct Procedures states that administrative reviewers or hearing officers can “assign terms designed to ensure responsible behavior and the well-being of the University community.” 

On Feb. 29, JFCN protestors were “required to write a (10 page) paper that explains how the University gathers information relevant to a divestment request, the complex factors to be weighed in a decision-making process, and the implementation of decisions related to divestment” to be submitted either individually or as a group, according to disciplinary documents reviewed by The Herald.

On March 6, BDC-affiliated students were given the choice to write a minimum 500-word statement outlining “the University's values and how they were at odds with (the students’) behavior” a statement outlining how their behavior was at odds with their values or create informational material regarding the University’s protest policy, according to Kuli.

Both student groups were instructed that they could not justify their actions or the actions of others in the statements, according to BDC spokespeople and a letter sent to JFCN. 

Garo expressed frustration with these terms. “You're asking me to write a personal value statement, explaining how my values are at odds with what I did,” Garo said. “They weren't — that's why I did them.”

Kuli wrote about her previous coursework at Brown that explored civil disobedience, citing past readings that influenced the development of her personal values. 

“My actions were in alignment with things that I (learned) and personal values that I developed during my time here,” she said. “The way that I understand … the relationship between this University and my personal values and myself has changed.”

“Brown’s policies make clear that protest is a necessary and acceptable means of expression on campus, and the University maintains safeguards for determining time, place and manner to ensure that protests don’t interfere with the normal functions of the University,” Clark wrote in an email to The Herald.

JFCN has publicly expressed support for BDC, calling on the University to “treat these students from BDC equally to those from JFCN and immediately drop all charges.”

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article mischaracterized the type of probation that students received. The Herald regrets the error.

Owen Dahlkamp

Owen Dahlkamp is a Section Editor overseeing coverage for University News and Science & Research. Hailing from San Diego, CA, he is concentrating in political science and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in data analytics. In his free time, you can find him making spreadsheets at Dave’s Coffee.

Ryan Doherty

Ryan Doherty is a Section Editor covering faculty, higher education and science & research. He is a sophomore concentrating in chemistry and economics who likes to partially complete crosswords in his free time.

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