Ohio State University President’s Statement on Clearing of Protest Encampments

May 1, 2024   |   Tags: ,

Released Monday by OSU President Ted Carter; I'm not up on the factual details, but I agree that such encampments can and should be forbidden under content-neutral time, place, and manner rules, and those rules should be enforced:

Listening to the feedback from our community over the last several days, I want to set the record straight regarding the events that took place on the South Oval on April 25.

I value and welcome free speech. I have spoken to this since the day I arrived here at Ohio State. As many of you know, I wore the cloth of our nation for 38 years to support and defend these rights. What occurred on our campus on April 25 was not about limiting free speech. It was an intentional violation of university space rules that exist so that teaching, learning, research, service and patient care can occur on our campuses without interruption.

As a public university, demonstrations, protests and disagreement regularly occur on our campus — so much so that we have trained staff and public safety professionals on-site for student demonstrations for safety and to support everyone's right to engage in these activities. Sadly, in recent days, I have watched significant safety issues be created by encampments on other campuses across our nation. These situations have caused in-person learning and commencement ceremonies to be canceled. Ohio State's campus will not be overtaken in this manner.

We have been abundantly clear in a multitude of communications that Ohio State has and will enforce the law and university policy, which is what we did on April 25. I most recently stated this in a campus message on April 22. Dr. Shivers again reinforced this and the rules that apply to Finals Week in a message to all students on April 23.

The university's long-standing space rules are content neutral and are enforced uniformly. Thursday's actions were taken because those involved in creating the encampment on the South Oval were in violation of these rules and had been notified of this beginning at 4:30 a.m. when the first encampment was attempted, and continuing repeatedly throughout the day. During and after the attempted encampment on Thursday morning, students asked our demonstration staff pointed questions about the space rules and received answers, confirming they were aware of the rules.

Despite these warnings and clear information about the rules, student organizations and outside entities promoted both the morning and the 5 p.m. activities as "encampments," and the university consistently informed the groups that this is prohibited and would not be permitted. At approximately 5:30 p.m., a group of more than 300, many of whom were not students, faculty or staff at Ohio State, crossed College Road to the South Oval and set up an encampment. Over the next five hours, the group proceeded to establish and build upon the encampment, while being repeatedly warned that this was prohibited. The Ohio State University Police Division was the lead agency, and after numerous warnings, the university made the decision to begin arrests. At approximately 10 p.m., law enforcement began the process of arresting and charging individuals with criminal trespass for knowingly violating university policy and police orders.

Encampments are not allowed on campus regardless of the reason for them. They create the need for around-the-clock safety and security resources, which takes these resources away from the rest of our community. They also create undue pressure on proximate buildings, in this case the Ohio Union, for restrooms and personal hygiene. During Finals Week, the Ohio Union is not only a study space for students, but it is also an exam location, including for students with disabilities. In this case, with the intent of creating an ongoing, 24/7 activity, the encampment also created a disturbance to our residential community in Baker Hall.

I acknowledge that even with additional facts about the incident and the timeline of events, some will continue to disagree with the actions taken. I accept that criticism and will always listen to others' concerns. In short, I take my responsibilities very seriously and am accountable for outcomes. Arrests are not an action that I or any member of the administration take lightly. I have stated since the first day I was announced as president that safety will not be compromised.

Additional details surrounding the facts of what occurred on April 25 are available on the university's Key Issues webpage and I encourage you to read them. But I wanted you to hear directly from me that Thursday's actions were not about the content of anyone's speech. They do not mean we are limiting individuals' right to gather and demonstrate. They do mean that Ohio State will continue to uniformly enforce our space rules as well as take the actions that support the safety and security of our community as a whole.

I also want to recognize and thank the many members of our community who have been committed to teaching, learning, listening to and supporting one another as well as peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights on our campus over these past months. This is what I know our Buckeye community is capable of, even — and especially — when it is most difficult.

The post Ohio State University President's Statement on Clearing of Protest Encampments appeared first on Reason.com.


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