Graduate student who filmed Calif. protests faces school disciplinary charges

CALIFORNIA — A University of California — Berkeley graduate journalism student — who previously served more than half a year in jail for defying a federal subpoena — faces student conduct disciplinary charges after filming a group of protestors that barricaded themselves in a building on campus.

Josh Wolf, 27, was charged with five violations of the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct on April 9, 2010. The charges stem from Wolf’s filming a group of students from inside Wheeler Hall on November 20, 2009, during statewide protests to University of California’s 32 percent tuition increases, budget cuts, and employee lay-offs. His charges are similar to the other 43 student activists that were arrested during the occupation.

University of California – Berkeley charged Wolf with student conduct violations that include unauthorized entry to University property (V.1002.06); physical abuse or threats of violence (V.102.08); obstruction or disruption of university activities (V.102.13); disturbance of the peace or unlawful assembly (V.102.15) and failing to comply with directions of a university official (V.102.16), as stated on the letter to Wolf from the university’s center for student conduct and community standards. The sanctions include a suspension from May 17 to December 17, with readmission for the 2011 spring semester contingent on a research essay about public university student codes of conduct.

“My first thought when I got the charges was that this wouldn’t be an issue and would resolve itself at the point that it was established that I am a journalist,” Wolf said.

The 43 students, including Wolf, were arrested following the occupation but the District Attorney of Alameda County Nancy E. O’Malley declined to press charges, Wolf said.

Wolf was also arrested in 2006 and became the longest-jailed journalist for failure to reveal sources. While working as an independent journalist and video blogger, Wolf was jailed for 226 days for refusing to comply with a federal subpoena to submit his unpublished video footage of a 2005 protest in San Francisco, Calif.

Associate Dean of Campus Life and Leadership Christina Gonzales said the university’s student conduct charges work independently of criminal charges and are solely based on the prohibited conduct that occurred on campus.

Leading up to the formal disciplinary letter, Wolf said he told the Assistant Director of the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards, Laura Bennett, that he was acting as a journalist during the protest and not participating in the building’s occupation.

During past years of student conduct charges at protests, “[the university] hasn’t been able to find that there was anyone considered the press, or if there was there wasn’t anything that showed that they (student journalists) were treated any differently,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales refused to comment on the conditions of Wolf’s disciplinary sanctions, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Wolf was required to either accept or reject the proposed student conduct resolution by April 14, but said he asked for a one week postponement to further explain his role as a journalist to the university’s student conduct office.

“As a journalist I feel that accepting any sort of punitive sanctions undermines the role of journalists in covering the world around them,” Wolf said.