Chancellor Thorp tried to make his new protest policy about protecting the safety of students.
Really it's an attempt to decrease or prevent sit-ins from occupying his office.
Under the new guidelines students are expected to leave at 5 p.m. or be subject to arrest. They're free to resume the sit-in at 8 a.m. when the building reopens.
Thorp wants you to believe that he has students' best interest at heart. He said that he wants to make sure students can both go to class and protest — but the new guidelines restrict sit-ins to the times when most classes are being held.
He wants you to think that there's a safety issue here.
He said that last spring when a 24-hour sit-in was held for 16 days in South Building one of the eight campus police officers was required to be stationed guarding the protesters instead of the rest of campus.
Thorp says guarding such protests is not worth losing one-eighth of the safety presence on campus.
Of course it's not. But why does a police officer need to be present?
Student protesters can handle themselves without monopolizing police officers.
If students choose to remain in a building past business hours they should simply be warned that they are accountable for themselves and any damages that occur.
Same as any student staying late in the Student Union The Daily Tar Heel office the student government office or any other building accessible after hours.
The student advisory committee to the chancellor held forums to solicit student input before Thorp developed these new rules.
The policy also outlaws posters signs and loud noises. It says that the number of protesters cannot exceed building capacity and that food cannot be heated or stored in containers.
These new rules apply to South Building Student and Academic Services Buildings and Carr Building.
There is precedent in the U.S. for regulating protests.
But these guidelines go beyond what it means to stage a sit-in.
Typically sit-ins are not loud or violent. The goal is often to be present in silent opposition that in no way breaks a law.
Sit-ins are one of the most obedient means of engaging in civil disobedience.
We're in no way supporting the objectives of Student Action with Workers from last spring. We're not sure their conduct was effective. But we respect their right to express their views in the way they deem effective.
Thorp has cut the legs out from under students with this new policy.
He's turned the concept of a sit-in into a joke.
And he's done it using the red herring of safety and hoping we won't notice the flawed reasoning.
Thorp was right about one thing: The right to protest is a hallowed tradition at the University of the People.
We want it back.
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