Update from becks [college edition]

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
posted by becks

Yesterday afternoon I received notice from the Dean of Student Conduct at Skidmore College (where I am currently going to school) that I would need to meet in front of the Integrity Board to have my actions from the tree sit judged. The policy that I imagine I violated, which can be found here, says, “In addition to following basic College regulations, community members are also obligated to observe the laws and ordinances of local, state, and federal governments. The College may press charges against community members engaged in criminal activities on or off the campus”  Though I can’t argue that the arrest didn’t happen, I am frustrated by the way Skidmore is choosing to deal with this particular action.  From my understanding, the policy is used in determining consequences for individuals who commit violent actions that harm themselves or others as well as actions that directly affect one’s standing in the larger Saratoga Springs community and/or Skidmore community.  On July 20th, when the tree sit began, I was not a Skidmore student nor had I been a Skidmore student for over a year.  I was in West Virginia, in a location 709 miles away; this nonviolent action did not tarnish my reputation in the Skidmore community and the Saratoga Springs community, nor did i tarnish the reputation of Skidmore College as an institution.

One of the reasons that I participated in this action, besides the fact that mountaintop removal mining poisons and kills communities and destroys rich and bio-diverse lands, is to challenge the powers that are able to dominate our society. The Coal Industry is able to get away with these atrocities because they have an incredible amount of power– politically, legally, socially, and economically.  When we try to fight back by working in the system, by lobbying for instance, we are easily stopped by the politicians who are bought out by Coal. When we try to fight back by working outside of the system, by sitting in trees and halting blasting, we are arrested and tried as “criminals.”  And now, I have another institution who is treating my action and the action of this campaign, as criminal.  Though I wont go as far as to argue that Skidmore College is bought out by coal, it is evident to see where its interests are and its interests certainly do not lie in its students and in its students fighting for what is just.

I challenge the legal system, I challenge Skidmore, I challenge you, and I challenge myself to fight back against this repression and stand up for what is right.  Following something because “that’s the way it is” or because that’s how the policy may be written, is incredibly sad.  Things will not change unless we make them change and I refuse to sit back and be intimidated.

(I am unsure when this meeting will take place, but will certainly update about it. Just like in my criminal case, I don’t believe I am guilty and thus will act accordingly).

6 Responses to “Update from becks [college edition]”

  1. Erika! says:

    becks– First, I’d like to say SOLIDARITY FROM WISCONSIN. If we weren’t working like hell to fight the fascists here, I’d be there fighting the fascists with y’all in WV. Second, I like to extend a hand in support. I work for United Council of UW Students, the statewide student union for the University of Wisconsin system, representing 155,000 students at 21 campuses. We recently spent a few years working on non-academic misconduct policy and if there’s any way that you could use some help, I’d be happy to lend it. If that’s research or legalese interpretation, contacting higher ed advocates in the area, or fellow student environmentalists to rally in your support, please don’t hesitate to ask. We have a fairly rowdy bunch of EJ organizers here too. FORWARD–erika.

    • becks says:

      Erika! Thanks for the solidarity–more comin’ back at y’all!
      I really appreciate the support. I’ll let you know if I need anything, but the support may certainly suffice. I have my hearing next Friday, so we’ll see how it goes and I’m sure a post will follow. Thanks again! and let us know if y’all need anything!

  2. Julia says:

    Hey becks my dad made a documentary about mountaintop removal in west virginia called burning the future and I’ve also been to protests against it. I think that it is horrible and want to do more to fight it. Im a freshman at skidmore and I find this whole story so interesting, I would love to get in touch with you somehow. You didn’t do anything wrong and I can’t believe that you have to deal with the integrity board…you did the right thing they suck! I would love to talk more about this sometime so be in touch please!


  3. Linda says:

    Becks, I am so sorry that Skidmore is requiring a hearing about this matter. I just find it inconceivable that any institution would mandate a hearing about a non-violent act of civil disobedience, that took place off-campus, when the student had not been enrolled for more than a year. It would be more appropriate for Skidmore to recognize your efforts and encourage others to show initiative in the area of social justice. If there is anything any of us can do, please let us know. I encourage you to seek out advising and legal services that are available on campus. Faculty members and advisers may be your allies in this hearing. I am hoping that this is a formality and the institution will re-evaluate its policies as a result of this hearing. Please keep us posted. Best Wishes. Linda

  4. Paul says:

    Becks – Solidarity from western New York and Save America’s Mountains, an all-volunteer group based in Rochester raising awareness about mountaintop removal. Let us know if we can be of service. In your act of civil disobedience, as you know – but the college should too – you join a proud and necessary American tradition of political expression, from Thoreau to Dr. King to Judy Bonds, and more. I’m hopeful the college will come to its senses and drop this nonsense, but please let us know. And keep up the good work.

  5. Beth Raps says:

    Greetings, all. I’ve just emailed Don with the following letter. I cc’d Laura Steepleton, who asked us to write in support. I think letters like this are tremendously important, and am delighted to provide one. I know it will matter to have public eyes on Skidmore in this arena. They have the opportunity to celebrate Becks’s action especially in light of their motto, “Creative Thought Matters!” Enjoy, and blessings to Becks.

    PO Box 117
    Berkeley Springs, WV 25411-0117
    (304) 258-2533

    October 29, 2011

    Don Hastings
    Office of Residential Life
    Skidmore College
    Rounds Hall – 1st floor, 815 North Broadway
    Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

    Dear Mr. Hastings:

    I’m writing in support of Becks Kolins’ Integrity Board case with Skidmore,where “creative thought matters.” I want not only to support her treesitting action as of moral and ethical importance, but to urge you consider it in context of like actions which have had tremendous moral and ethical as well as legal and political implications. This includes the anti-slavery and civil rights movements, both of which depended on civil disobedience as a key tactic in an overarching strategy to end oppression. It has as precursor the Chipko treehugging, tree-saving movement in India, the movement led by Gandhi for India’s independence, and worldwide nonviolent resistance to the development of nuclear weapons, which Einstein himself wished he had refused to aid through his research, writing

    Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger.

    –in a letter to Roosevelt on the possibility of atomic weapons, from “Atom: Einstein, the Man Who Started It All,” Newsweek Magazine of March 10 1947, accessed in Wikipedia’s entry on Einstein 10/29/11


    Taken on the whole, I would believe that Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit… not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in what we believe is evil.

    –from a radio interview for the UN recorded in Einstein’s study, Princeton, New Jersey, 1950, also accessed in Wikipedia’s Einstein entry 10/29/11.

    The mountaintop removal movement likewise has had and continues to have its heros and sheros who show extraordinary courage on its behalf through nonviolent civil disobedience and a host of other tactics all part of a strategy to end the absurd, thoughtless, short-sighted and completely damaging practice in our generation. The movement will need more s/heroes until the struggle has been won, nonviolently but sometimes civilly disobediently, against forces which themselves sometimes make use of violence. As a West Virginian for the past decade, and one who would like to keep her mountains as intact as possible, I am grateful to people like Becks Kolins.

    Having been involved in numerous nonviolent political struggles during my 51 years and appreciating the importance of both the academic’s toolkit of rational argument, the power of focused research and development of ideas–and the toolbox found in grassroots organizing, which includes civil disobedience, I say to you that while there is no cause for sanction against a student because of strategic use of civil disobedience in a just and moral cause where her actions have been nonviolent, there is every cause for praise and pride on the part of the institution that has had a hand in that student’s moral development. I ask you please not only to show leniency but clear support for Becks Kolins hearing on November 4th.

    Beth G. Raps, Ph.D.

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