Millennials

OSU Threatens to Expel Student Activists for Making Campus Staff Feel Unsafe

"The people in this building have a right to a safe environment ... where their jobs won't be interrupted," OSU officials say.

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Screenshot/YouTube

Should the Ohio State University (OSU) administration have threatened to sic the cops on student protesters staging a peaceful sit-in at a campus building? I'm with Conor Friedersdorf, who writes that he's "usually skeptical of any decision to call the police on peaceful protesters," or to expel students for campus activism. Still, in an era when college administrators routinely trip all over themselves to pander to student protesters, there's something almost comforting about this more authoritarian response to the campus left, especially since it was tempered with seeming respect and restraint from officials.  

Here's precisely what a campus spokesman told the OSU students who had occupied a campus building last week: 

If you are students, and I think the vast majority of you are, I want you to understand that you are violating the student code of conduct. As dictated to me by [university president] Dr. Drake 15 minutes ago to me on the phone, we have chosen to try to work with you this evening because we respect you. This is your university. And we want to have dialogue. We want the dialogue to extend beyond tonight. But if you refuse to leave, then you will be charged with a student code of conduct violation. And I'm telling you this now because I want you to have good thought and careful consideration. If you're here at 5 a.m. we will clear the building and you will be arrested. And we will give you the opportunity to go to jail for your beliefs. Our police officers will physically pick you up, take you to a paddywagon, and take you to be jail.

As Friedersdorf notes, "lots of college administrators decide to clear protests with force—recall the pepper-spraying cop at UC Davis, for example—but taking a preemptive, hardline position, bluntly and transparently, is a striking departure from other occupations I've seen." 

But the most interesting part of this incident is the language OSU officials used to justify their action: the langague of safe spaces. Students couldn't just occupy any old campus building, the school said, because there were workers in those buildings, too, and the kids were freaking them out.

"The consensus of university leaders is that the people who work in this building should be protected also," said one of the school spokesman. "They come to work around 7 o'clock. Do you remember when you all made the rush down there and chanted to the folks outside the doors a minute ago? That scared people." A second OSU official told students that "the employees who work past five o'clock left early this evening. Do you know why? Because they were scared you were going to do something."

"The people in this building have a right to a safe environment," the first spokesman continued, "and to an environment where their jobs won't be interrupted."

Says Friedersdorf, who has been covering campus activism and its discontents for a while, "appealing to the safety and fear of staff in this way is something else I've never seen. But I suspect that it will be used against student protesters in the future. In my work defending free speech, I've repeatedly noted how speech codes implemented in the late 1980s and early 90s with the intention of protecting black students were ultimately used to charge and punish more black students than white students." 

If we're allowing for a little optimism, perhaps this is just one lesson that each new generation has to learn for itself: The Man is never your friend. If you give authorities—be they campus administrators, cops, or federal officials—the tools to censor and the framework to sell it, they will never stop with using this power only in ways that you like. As campus administrators turn this "speech is literally violence" mindset back on their charges, let's hope that millennials and Gen Z get the message. 

NEXT: Bill Nye, "Science Guy," Open to Jail Time for Climate Change Skeptics

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  1. What’s that Iron Law?

    1. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year w0rking 0nline and I’m a full time student. I’m using an 0nline business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great m0ney. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Here’s what I’ve been doing ???????????? Open this link http://www.elite36.com

      1. No, that is NOT the Iron Law, silly bot!

      2. No, it was something about something today, something else tomorrow.

    2. You get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish.

    3. Also the Golden Rule: The power you give the administration to do unto others will be used to do unto you.

  2. Dropped in the AM links, but oh, so fitting here:

    “Ban that!”
    http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine

    1. That should disperse them faster than pepper spray.

      1. But the damages the university will have to pay! Is it worth it?

  3. I have no problem with people who want to force you to shut up being forced to shut up. They have their principles, they can hardly complain about you adhering to the same principles. If you think it’s fine to go around raping or robbing or killing people, don’t complain when other people think it’s fine to rape or rob or kill you, I always say.

  4. We’ve reached MASS: Mutually Assured Safe Spaces.

    1. I think the only way that this can be resolved is if each student is given a separate, isolated cell where they do not come into contact with anyone or anything at all, lest they get triggered or othered. They are allowed to color and watch culturally diverse, non-ciswhiteheterochristianpatriarchical children’s programming, and after four years, are awarded a gold star.

      1. And videos of puppies.

        Not real puppies, mind you. They sometimes bite, and you have to feed them and clean up piss and poop.

        But carefully selected puppy videos are safe.

  5. Acceding to their demands won’t end the whining. “Get out or we’ll throw you out” seems like a suitable response to these bully tactics.

    1. Umm…that is what he said, albeit with a few more words.

      1. All I heard was he needed some muscle over here.

  6. What you set in place will never bite your own personal ass. Yep. Well-known fact.

  7. I think this is just what they should do. If the activists are really serious about what they are doing, they can sit tight and get arrested and hauled out. Isn’t that how civil disobedience is supposed to work? It’s like they want it both ways. They want to be edgy student radicals like in the 60s, but they don’t want to be exposed to any danger either.

    1. Accountability is an old-fashioned construct.

    2. +1 trips in the paddy wagon.

    3. Agreed. Taking the consequences is the part of civil disobedience people like to forget.

      1. And part of the design. Black activist in the 50s-60s who staged sit ins wanted to be arrested and held in prison for a time. This was seen as a way to bankrupt the corrupt governments they were fighting. It was a cost benefit analysis. But that was before the prison industrial complex got into full swing.

        1. That was when the prison-industrial complex got started.

          For their own good, you know.

          “How Liberals Put Black America Behind Bars”

  8. I would love to find out the proportion of student protesters that are actually paying their own way for the tuition, fees, and housing. My guess is it’s less than 2%, and I’m not even counting the tax-supported tuition rates at state schools nor scholarship money against them. And when I say paying their own way, I’m not talking about student loans as there is no evidence that those loans are performing, nor am I counting those having their tuition and fees paid for by their parents.

    What I’m saying is the free shit crowd all make themselves known by their asshole-ish behavior.

  9. The girl in red looks like she’s occupying 2 or more safe spaces.

    1. You, sir (or madam), earned a link.

  10. They saw what happened at Mizzou, enrollment down 20% and dormitories closing, and decided they better put a leash on the monster they created. That is all this is.

    I am not impressed.

    1. Aren’t markets grand?

    2. I’m pretty impressed. Its a low bar, but I didn’t think major university administrations were possessed with even the most basic ability to respond to any stimulus outside of the state legislature.

  11. taking a preemptive, hardline position, bluntly and transparently, is a striking departure from other occupations I’ve seen.”

    Rebuke me, Daddy

    1. If taking a preemptive, hardline position, bluntly and transparently, isn’t something you’ve seen before, then you need to get out more.

  12. there’s something almost comforting about this more authoritarian response to the campus left

    Yes Elizabeth, learn. Learn to hate. Come. Be one of us.

    1. It’s almost like you’re allowed to respond to agression with proportionate agression. That made me dizzy.

  13. Basically, there’s no right to hold parades and protests in the administration building and yell at the staff.

    For once I agree with the US Supreme Court – the right to peacefully assemble applies to traditional public fora – the streets, the sidewalks, in this case I suppose the camps quad.

    A government building is generally *not* a public forum.

    The exception is if the government itself *designates* a building as a public forum, in which case it must offer equal access to all points of view. In this case, suppose the university administration allowed *conservative* students to march and chant inside the administration building, then it would have to allow the same freedom to the lefty students.

    But if they have, in good faith, a policy of not allowing *any* student to march and chant in the administration building, they have the power to enforce such a policy.

    If such a policy is only triggered by subjective factors like university employees feeling uncomfortable or whatever, then that might be more of a problem – which is why universities should make it a habit to break up *any* mob of chanting students which goes into the administration building. It’s iffy to allow some students mobs or disallow others based on subjective comfort factors.

  14. Basically, there’s no right to hold parades and protests in the administration building and yell at the staff.

    For once I agree with the US Supreme Court – the right to peacefully assemble applies to traditional public fora – the streets, the sidewalks, in this case I suppose the camps quad.

    A government building is generally *not* a public forum.

    The exception is if the government itself *designates* a building as a public forum, in which case it must offer equal access to all points of view. In this case, suppose the university administration allowed *conservative* students to march and chant inside the administration building, then it would have to allow the same freedom to the lefty students.

    But if they have, in good faith, a policy of not allowing *any* student to march and chant in the administration building, they have the power to enforce such a policy.

    If such a policy is only triggered by subjective factors like university employees feeling uncomfortable or whatever, then that might be more of a problem – which is why universities should make it a habit to break up *any* mob of chanting students which goes into the administration building. It’s iffy to allow some students mobs or disallow others based on subjective comfort factors.

    1. On the other hand, if there’s a policy against *any* protests in the administration building, then as part of the rationale of such a policy the govt has every right to defend such a policy by the disruptive effect which *any* demonstration would have on the staff. Instead of examining the particulars of each situation – “how did you feel when the student mob came into your workspace chanting ‘no justice, no peace’?” – it’s legitimate to simply *assume* that such behavior is disruptive to your average clerk and keep the building free of the marchers and chanters.

      1. And here is a difference between the discomfort of students who see “Trump 2016” chalked on a sidewalk and a clerk whose workplace is occupied by loud angry students: The chalk-phobic student’s fears are objectively *unreasonable* and the clerk’s fears are *reasonable.*

        The chalk isn’t going to come to life and bite anyone, it’s irrational to get scared of it.

        From the standpoint of a university employee who wants to do his or her job, then assuming (s)he follows the news, then (s)he knows that many student activists use force if they feel they can get away with it – if they can block a university president’s motorcade, they wouldn’t hesitate to push around a timid old lady clerk.

        And whether the employees’ fear is justified or not, they are certainly being distracted from their jobs – I imagine that having a bunch of loud, unwashed youth in your office would be almost as bad a distraction as H&R.

        1. I imagine that having a bunch of loud, unwashed youth in your office would be almost as bad a distraction as H&R.

          The smell alone would be nauseating and make it difficult to concentrate.

  15. Why no outrage over the university spokesman’s use of the…problematic…term “paddy wagon”? I guess my fellow Irish descendants are all too drunk to get upset about it.

    1. It’s not quite beyond the pale yet.

      1. These jokes get my Irish up.

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