Students protest tuition hikes, told to disband by Public Safety

Public Safety officers told students protesting tuition hikes outside of a University Budget Committee in Leonard Hall to leave on Feb. 5.

Students were told they had to leave the hallway because they had not properly organized the protest through Student Activities, Katie Kirchner, a senior in the School of Communication who was a part of the protest, said in an email.

Public Safety officers reacted appropriately to the situation, according to Kelly Alexander, the director of public relations at AU.

“At no time during this protest did any public safety officers indicate that anyone would be arrested,” Alexander said in an email. “The students who gathered were allowed to present the letter they brought with them to the Provost. Eventually the students were asked to leave as they did not have the required request/permit to protest.”

A Public Safety officer held a pair of handcuffs while approximately 40 student protesters lined the hallway in Leonard Hall outside the room where administrators were meeting, according to Kirchner.

“The most alarming part of this situation is how escalatory Public Safety acted when students were peaceful and respectful,” Kirchner said in an email. “I don’t know what prompted them to take out the handcuffs; students were simply lining one side of a hallway silently.”

Kirchner said in an email that she was told by a Public Safety officer that the protest had not been organized through the correct channels.

“Public Safety officers asked students to disband with the claim that the action needed to be organized through Student Activities,” she said. “There is no way to book a hallway through 25Live, and students were completely in our right to stand silently in that hallway.”

AU’s Freedom of Expression guidelines establish protections for freedom of expression for all members of the University community and can be found online through the Student Guide & Policies page on the Dean of Students website.

The guidelines guarantee a student’s right to dissent, “so long as the orderly processes of the University are not deliberately obstructed.”

Public Safety Captain Kevin Barrett said that while he was aware that there was a protest in Leonard Hall, he could not give comment.

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