After a six-hour hearing in front of more than 250 students, faculty, and staff members, Middlebury College will not punish the five students responsible for sending out a hoax press release in advance of a recent visit from the Dalai Lama. However, the students were found guilty of violating two Middlebury policies and will receive a reprimand, as MiddBlog reports:
[The Middlebury Community Judicial Board] found the students guilty of violating the Community Standard of communicating with honesty and integrity in the College Handbook, and the “ethical and law-abiding behavior” clause in the Library and Information Services (LIS) policy. However, their sentence is a reprimand — not official college discipline.
Last week, I wrote that the fake press release presented Middlebury with an opportunity to educate its students about the boundaries of free speech, satire, and political activism. Rather than impose harsh discipline, I argued that Middlebury could choose instead to engage the dialogue the students’ actions had started about free speech rights on campus. It seems as though the hearing process—and the intense interest it generated on campus—served as that kind of forum, and Middlebury ultimately seems to have responded to the students in a measured, thoughtful way.