Camping plans cut short for Tent State demonstrators

They came and pitched their tents just before noon Monday.

By 5 p.m., the University had put an end to Tent State University.

The event was intended to last all week, with students camping out to promote student engagement.

Citing University policy, officials from the Office of Student Affairs approached the students shortly after noon and told them to tear down the tents by 3 p.m.

The students were not a registered student group and therefore couldn’t apply for a permit to be on Northrop Mall, Amelious Whyte, chief of staff in the Office of Student Affairs, said.

While its original plans were short-lived, Tent State campers will be allowed to set up their tents from noon to 5 p.m. both Tuesday and Wednesday and assemble – without the tents – on Thursday and Friday.

About 35 students calmly objected when officials approached them shortly after 3 p.m., saying the Mall is public property and they had a right to be there.

“It’s public property, but it’s the University’s public property,” Whyte responded.

The main issue was the tents, as Whyte said the students had a right to assemble, but camping crossed the line.

Despite the regulations, first-year outdoor education student Elise Schiffman said the tents garnered the attention the students were looking for.

“The tents manifest what we’re trying to say,” Schiffman said to Whyte. “We’re trying to bring awareness to Actifest.”

A separate weeklong event, Actifest is a joint effort of several student groups, including Amnesty International, the Pro-Choice Coalition and Democracy Matters.

Tent State was not directly affiliated with Actifest, but members of those groups were among those camping on the Mall.

The original intent was to give students a place to gather and talk about “what’s on their minds,” co-organizer David Rittenhouse said.

“(We wanted to) create a place where students can come together and build this community; really show that we do have a voice on campus, even though it’s been seeming in the past that we don’t,” he said.

Members of Tent State wrote a constitution Monday afternoon in the Mall in an effort to become an official student group. Rittenhouse said next time the group will apply for a permit and try Tent State in the future.

“We’ll try again next year,” he said. “Make our presence known this year and hopefully come back bigger and better.”

-Jake Grovum is a senior staff reporter.