Institute endangered student's rights
(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to President Paul E. Gray '54)
Jennifer Y. C. Huang '90, a concentrator in the Program in Women's Studies, was tried in Middlesex County Court on Sep. 21 ["Huang guilty of assault," Sep. 25]. She was charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace, and assault and battery (a felony).
Allegedly, she committed these crimes during the April 6, 1990 student demonstration against apartheid in front of the Julius A. Stratton Student Center.
We, the women's studies staff and faculty at MIT, find it odd that an MIT student should be charged with crimes for demonstrating peacefully on her own campus, in front of a building intended for a variety of student activities.
We find it just as odd that the police were called in by the MIT administration to deal with the demonstration, since there was no hint of violence.
Two Campus Police officers testified that Huang had said nothing, and had not resisted arrest. While she was lying on her stomach, they added, they pulled her arms behind her back and handcuffed her, then picked her up and put her face down into the back of a police van.
Officer Lucy M. Figueiredo testified that she was kicked by Huang as the latter was being put into the van. Huang's shoe was put in evidence as a dangerous weapon. We find it curious that a young woman who had not resisted arrest, who was handcuffed by two officers and then shoved into a van, should be charged with assault and battery.
Judge Arlene Hassett found Huang guilty of assault and battery. We highly doubt that a jury would have rendered such an unlikely verdict. Hassett asked the prosecution if it had any objections to Huang being granted a continuance, a punishment under whose terms Huang's record would be expunged after an agreed upon period of good behavior.
The district attorney walked to the gallery, past Figueiredo, directly to Campus Police Lt. Edward D. McNulty, who represents the CPs and MIT at court proceedings. NcNulty indicated "no," whereupon the district attorney walked back, rejected the continuance, and called for sentencing.
Hassett gave Huang a 10-day suspended sentence in a correctional institution. Though Huang will not have to serve her time, her record will show her to have committed a felony. Huang's lawyer will appeal for a trial by jury, extending the costly legal process by another few months.
For us, the primary issue is not whether Huang was found guilty or innocent, but why she was put on trial in the first place. With all the serious crimes afflicting the larger community, why was our tax money used to break up a peaceful protest against apartheid in South Africa?
Why were MIT employees involved in the case so threatening to free and responsible expression amongst students? Why the vindictiveness of turning down the continuance, if not to frighten those who might wish to continue their protests against political oppression?
At its April 18, 1990 meeting, the MIT faculty passed a resolution requesting that charges be dropped against all students who were arrested during the April
6, 1990 demonstration against apartheid. Yet Huang was brought up on charges. The faculty vote was ignored by the administration.
We are shocked by these violations of democracy: A student is charged with felony for demonstrating peacefully; the police
are called upon to break up non-violent protest; a faculty vote is ignored by the administration. Are we really on the MIT cam-
pus in Cambridge? The women's studies faculty strongly protests these violations of civility and democracy.
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