On January 23, Cal Poly Humboldt students gathered to protest a donor fundraiser on campus. They were frustrated that the university was raising money from donors while students face a 6% tuition increase every year for the next five years.
The protesters quickly organized when they heard about the event and didn’t give the required advance notice about the demonstration. University President Tom Jackson was supposed to host the event. He didn’t show and the protest took a turn.
“He wasn’t present in the building and no donors were showing up and so a lot of students were kind of coming together to be like, what should we do?,” said Mary Mangubat, a Cal Poly Humboldt student. “We recognized an administrative person. Mitch Mitchell was there. So a lot of our message kind of came to recognizing as students that we have been trying and consistently trying to meet with Tom Jackson. And in that moment, Mitch Mitchell was there and we were like, there’s an admin person. So he comes to talk to us and it just escalates from his end.”
Last year, Cal Poly Humboldt hired Mitchell to be the Associate Vice President for Student Success and Dean of Students. Mangubat said when protesters approached Mitchell during the demonstration, he called the University Police Department (UPD).
“They told the students, okay, you may be breaking a policy and then they sort of walked away,” said Anthony Silvaggio, the Sociology Department Chair at Cal Poly Humboldt. “I did see, however, when another administrator showed up, an escalation and that was kind of troublesome. Because we don’t want to escalate situations, we want to de-escalate them in these sorts of protest situations with students.”
Last Friday, Mangubat received a disciplinary notice from Molly Kresl the Associate Dean of Students.
“And it was outlining charges that were pertaining to university policy of time, place, and manner,” said Mangubat.
She appeared before a disciplinary hearing on Thursday with her advisor, Professor Silvaggio.
Cal Poly Humboldt issued a statement saying the “process of investigating a possible violation of student code of conduct policy begins with informal discussions—to help the student understand why the policy may have been violated, and to better understand the student’s side of the story.”
The same day of the hearing, a crowd of students protested on her behalf, saying she was unfairly targeted.
“All of these components made me recognize, students are going to support each other and we’ll always be there for each other and it’s not going to come from our administrators,” Mangubat said. “Unfortunately, right now they really don’t want to listen. And that really resonated with me. like that’s who showed up for me students.”
The Director of News and Information for Cal Poly Humboldt, Aileen S Yoo, shared this statement regarding a response to Mitchell’s involvement in the protest on Jan. 23. “[The] UPD (University Police Department) always provides support at events with crowds, such as commencement. When there’s an unexpected crowd of people for an event that wasn’t planned by the university, it’s routine for staff to call UPD.”
In the end, the university gave Mangubat a deferred probation–which essentially highlights that if she breaks another university policy and has to go through another conduct case, it would be pushed further and it would be like a second offense–and she has to write an essay about this experience.