A University of Georgia graduate student denounced administrators Tuesday for what he said was a contrived effort to punish him for comments about racial injustice after a student panel cleared him of charges he falsified his graduate school application.
The charges against the student, Irami Osei-Frimpong, who is African American, came in January about a week after comments about race relations he made at a meeting were posted online. Those comments included statements such as “some white people may have to die for black communities to be made whole in this struggle to advance to freedom.”
The university in January released a statement condemning “the advocacy or suggestion of violence in any form” and it planned to explore its legal options. Critics argued the comments advocated violence against whites, threatened to withhold donations to the university and wanted Osei-Frimpong expelled.
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Osei-Frimpong, a teaching assistant since 2016, denies trying to incite violence. His supporters, which included organizations outside Georgia, worried his speech rights were under attack.
“The goal was to turn my life into an ordeal for the crime of making White people nervous about how I talk about dismantling White supremacy,” Osei-Frimpong said in email responses to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The university said in a statement that it used the same standards it used in other instances when it began its investigation of Osei-Frimpong.
“The Office of Student Conduct adjudicated this case like any other, in compliance with all applicable policies and procedures. We respect the student conduct process and the outcome,” said Greg Trevor, the university’s communications director.
Osei-Frimpong was accused of falsely filling out his graduate school application in 2015 because he didn’t mention his prior studies at the University of Chicago and answered no to whether he had been charged or convicted of anything other than a minor traffic offense. He was arrested in October 2011 for participating in an Occupy Wall Street protest.
An Illinois judge dismissed those charges against Osei-Frimpong, so he said he answered the question about prior charges or convictions correctly. Osei-Frimpong studied political science at the University of Chicago. He said he was thinking about schools where he studied philosophy when he answered the question about his past studies.
Two weeks ago, a student panel held a six-hour hearing to review the claims. The penalties for falsely filling out graduate school application forms includes dismissal. The panel wrote in a five-page decision dated Monday that Osei-Frimpong didn’t violate the university’s code of conduct.
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Osei-Frimpong said administrators should have contacted him to have a discussion concerning his thoughts about racial inequity. The dispute, he said, should have never been assigned to the student panel.
“The administration announced that they were going to selectively use all legal options to prosecute me. We have seen the extent of that. They published lies about me in their investigative report. It’s all a standing embarrassment,” he said.
Osei-Frimpong said he has reapplied to continue his assistantship. He’s scheduled to receive his Ph.D. in two years.
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