Opinion: An open letter to university administration

Editor’s Note: Speakeasy has chosen to publish this opinion piece on behalf of its relevance, rather than its content. Our publication strives to serve as an open platform for students to voice their opinions on any matter that they feel passionate about. If any one would like to submit a response to be published on our platform please send any op-ed pieces to speakeasyeditor@gmail.com.

As a collective body of students and community members from various anti-capitalist organizations, formal and informal, in Athens and on campus, we feel compelled to write this letter to the Ohio University Administration because we feel that their policies are unjust and we must fight back against them by any means necessary. We write this letter to detail our demands and to let them be known to the public.

A Letter to the Ohio University Administration,

Y{OU} CAN’T SILENCE DISSENT.

We believe that freedom of expression includes spontaneous political protest and expression of dissent. We believe that the use of campus space should be a fundamental right for students; student tuition funds the construction and operation of Ohio University and its facilities. We believe that this right extends to any community members who feel compelled to use university spaces as well. Any denial of this would further the university’s encroachment upon the Athens community’s rights.

As students and community members, we believe that Ohio University has over-stepped its authority in its recent enactment of policies 24.014 (Freedom of Expression) and 24.016 (Use of Outdoor Space on the Athens Campus). These policies continue the historic suppression of leftist movements and allow the university to target demonstrations which threaten their reputation and profit. These policies give authorities the legal-backing and discretion to entangle student activists in the unjust prison-industrial complex.

We wish to call attention to the policies’ violation of University Policy 01.001 (Preparation of Policies), as they were formed without using the standard procedure of shared governance and without providing reason for why the policies needed to be adopted so urgently. However, even if these policies were put into place following proper procedure, they would still be inappropriate as any attempt to police dissent is inherently oppressive. Therefore, we demand that these policies be done away with entirely and with no substitution.

These policies were formed as a direct response to the university’s failure to convict the 70 protesters arrested in Baker Center last spring. Instead of communicating with the protesters, who consisted almost entirely of students, the administration ordered campus, city, and state police officers to arrest them in their own student center. The charges of criminal trespassing did not stand in court, and the citations of case law in the ruling judge’s justification to dismiss the charges show that these attempts of suppressing leftist speech are nothing new on college campuses. Considering the charges and arrests were fruitless and needlessly burdensome, we demand the university fund all relevant legal costs of the resulting trials.

We strongly oppose these policies restricting expression due to the urgency to actively build an equitable society and the need for active disruption from protest to do so. Accordingly, we reaffirm the demands expressed at the aforementioned demonstration for the university to be committed to protecting all undocumented and immigrant students threatened by racist and xenophobic legislation. We demand the university and its police refuse to cooperate with ICE, refuse to share information about students’ citizenship, and provide free housing and employment for international students who may be forced to remain in the United States in fear of being denied reentry due to legislation targeting their nationality.

John Biancamano, David Descutner, Jenny Hall-Jones, Jason Pina and Duane Nellis have claimed to prioritize the needs of marginalized students while sloppily passing policy that directly opposes those students’ interests. They have historically proven themselves unfit to serve their roles as administrators and we call for their resignation should they fail to meet the demands outlined.

Disrespectfully,

Madhu Pesala, on behalf of students and community members who refuse to be silenced

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