GC5 spectacle a necessary one

Debate still needs to be had on how the University handled debate.

The current debate surrounding the General College protesters going to trial next week, starting to be commonly referred to as the GC5, is full of spin from both sides. The upcoming trial does, however, serve a necessary purpose of opening debate on how the University handled the process to close the General College.

Let’s make the situation clear. Nine protesters were arrested last May at a sit-in protest in Morrill Hall. All were offered plea bargains; four accepted, and the five who refused are going to trial next week. They were offered plea bargains by the prosecutor, but for reasons of their own, chose to go to trial. Clearly they could have accepted plea bargains. Students could face 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine but this is very unlikely. The plea bargains offered to them consisted of fines that were double the typical amount for typical civil disobedience charges, in any case, less than $500 each.

The University claims it does not take any part in prosecuting the students. This is correct, but does not mean it holds no sway over what the prosecutor does. The University could simply make a public statement encouraging the prosecutor to drop the charges and they probably would be dropped.

Prosecutors do not want to go to trial when it is unnecessary. In fact, the University did not have to call police last May, as it is the University that decides what is trespassing.

With this understood, it becomes clear that more debate needs to be had over how the University handled the decision process for closing General College. The University executed an trick play to carry out discussions and debate while current and future students directly affected by the closing would likely be away from campus. They had students arrested and rumors of intimidation abound.

Does the University think this will teach would-be protesters a lesson? Do the protesters think it will shed light on a shift in the administration’s relationship with students? The upcoming trial is a show, but it is one held in the spirit of opening debate.