After a series of Community Standards investigations on their “public intervention” project, History of American Education students hosted a panel about the university’s alleged criminalization of students at Watson Forum on Thursday, May 9. The panel was moderated by Maya La Croix ‘25 in collaboration with the Democratic Socialists of DePauw.

The assignment, which led to a student being questioned by DePauw Police, resulted in student-led interventions such as anti-Business School flyers, crime scene tape across the Green Center of Performing Arts, and “Wanted” posters of DePauw administrators. Associate Professor and Department Chair of Educational Studies Derek Ford contacted the Community Standards Board to claim responsibility, while the majority of his students received Code of Conduct violations for “disrupting University property” and “violation of the Campus Publicity Display Policy.”

Caitlyn Araujo ‘26 and America Bañuelos ‘24 shared that they felt targeted by the Community Standards investigation as the only two Latina students in the class. The pair put up signs on the first floor of Harrison Hall displaying “School of Greed and Individuality,” smeared with red paint to represent fake blood.

“As (a student) of color at a predominantly white institution, I said (to Caitlyn that) I think it's a good idea if we wear hoodies and wear some face masks, because the state of surveillance at the school is actually crazy,” Bañuelos said. “I was the only person that swiped into Harrison Hall, but our Community Standards report for the investigation (said that) apparently we both swiped into the building, which is not what had happened.”

Although Araujo asked about the report’s alleged inconsistency during her Community Standards meeting, she has not yet received a response from Director of Community Standards Kelsey Wetli.

“I still haven't heard anything,” Araujo said. “As Vice President of The Committee of Latinx Concerns (CLC), I don’t want (myself) to be the face of CLC, and (for them to) think that we do all this like bad stuff.”

Alex Preston ‘25, the only student from the class questioned by DePauw Police about the project, emphasized that the Community Standards process caused significant distress during the first two weeks of the investigation.

“When I got the Community Standards letter … I had a breakdown because I (thought), where is this going to go from here? Is it going to be a warning? Am I gonna get probation? Am I going to get suspended? Am I going to get expelled?” she said. “I don't want to keep explaining the same thing I've been telling everybody else (that) I'm going to (Community) Standards over a class project.”

Ella McWalter ‘25, who set up crime scene tape across the Green Center for Performing Arts, said it’s important to consider DePauw Police’s investigations given the uptick in police interventions amid pro-Palestinian movements across U.S. college campuses. She alleges that  their materials were specifically taken down due to their critiques against the School of Business and Leadership and the administration. 

“Just because we go to a private school, (administrators) can use other rules like the (Campus Publicity Display) Policy to limit our expression,” McWalter said. “If you're here supporting us, you're probably thinking of the same ideas. We (want you to know) that your organizations could be impacted, your stuff could be censored.”

Meanwhile, Emmaline Purciful ‘25, McWalter’s project partner, noted the real-life applications of their course content on the criminalization of students on university campuses. 

“With this class we learned that even if it's not the individual's intention, it is always the system's intention to be very intentional about who it criminalizes. I think saying that it's not a race issue is not actually looking at the system in which we're operating,” she said.

When asked about Ford’s responsibility for the incident given his knowledge of institutional policies, Bañuelos mentioned Ford’s efforts to advocate for students while acknowledging the privileges in his position. 

“He has tried to use the many privileges that he has as a white professor at a predominantly white institution to try to make sure we don't have serious repercussions. But I also recognize that his position does allow him to maybe do projects like this, conduct interventions like this, and be able to advocate for his students at that level in a different way than it may show up for faculty of color,” she said. “I think we could have definitely had more conversations about (that).”

Outgoing DePauw Student Government President Paige Burgess ‘25 asked about the panelists’ intended outcome after their experiences with police intervention and Community Standards investigations. 

“Moving forward, I’m looking for consistency and that sanctions reflect the severity of what occurred, because the issue here is that we were just students participating in a class project and that became a Student Affairs issue,” Purciful responded. “The project was a response to the harm that's being done to us, not an intention to harm anyone else.”