SDS tries to enter meeting

By
Monday, October 20, 2008

Corporation members peering out the window of University Hall’s third floor Saturday might have been surprised to see a similar meeting taking place on the grass.

Protesting what they feel is an opaque and exclusive board of governors, Students for a Democratic Society parodied the annual fall meeting of the University’s highest governing body by having some of the group’s white male members – along with a “token female” and a “token minority” – lead a mock discussion.

But the theatrics really started when five group members dashed across the Main Green holding a ladder, which they attempted to use to climb through a window into the meeting.

Department of Public Safety Sgt. Kevin Andrews tackled the ladder before the protesters could prop it against the building’s facade, but the excitement was enough to divert other officers’ attention away from University Hall’s doors as 20 protesters stormed the building, allowing eight to make it inside.

Amid chants of “Let them up,” and “We know you see us,” the eight protesters tried to negotiate their way into the meeting, according to Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn and SDS member Atilio Barreda ’12, who was one of the eight to make it inside.

Quinn and Barreda said the protesters demanded to present an agenda and a petition in front of the Corporation, but Senior Vice President for Corporation Affairs and Governance Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 told the students that the meeting was closed.

When SDS members asked to speak with a member of the Corporation, Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76 briefly left the meeting, telling the students he would accept their petition and their concerns, but that they could not enter the meeting.

The students then left the building to a round of applause from the crowd of about 30 outside.

Barreda said the protest was successful but that more work needs to be done in order for SDS to meet its goals, including earlier access to the body’s minutes and greater community involvement in its decisions.

“We’re just going to continue fighting,” he said.

“Until we have nothing less than complete control of our school, there’s no compromise.”

Quinn said no disciplinary action has been taken against the protesters, but an investigation is underway to determine whether the protest violated the University’s Protest and Demonstration Guidelines.

The guidelines prohibit “protests or demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to peaceful assembly,” but it is unclear whether the group’s actions constituted a violation of these guidelines.

“It is possible that there would be sanctions against the organization or the students,” Quinn said. “There are more effective means to engage in discussions of ideas and perspectives.”

Students not a part of SDS disagreed on whether the protest was effective or if they agreed with the group’s aims.

Ruben Izmailyan ’09 said he thinks other students respect that SDS has opinions, but that Saturday’s action seemed like “protesting for the sake of protesting.”

“I think they might have certain valid opinions but the confrontational way they try to get their points across does not resonate well with most of the student body,” Izmailyan said.

Amrin Khander ’11 said she agreed with some of SDS’ concerns. “One thing I don’t agree with is that students should have the final say,” she said. “I don’t think students are old enough to make decisions like that for our peers.”

– With additional reporting by Colin Chazen

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