Protesters disturb regents’ meeting

Jim Martyka

and Joel Sawyer

Angry demonstrators disrupted the Board of Regents meeting Friday and called on the board to preserve academic freedom by signing a pledge not to change the University’s current tenure policy.
About 50 students, faculty and concerned citizens met in front of Morrill Hall before moving inside to request that the regents sign a statement prohibiting any changes to the tenure code.
“You have the opportunity to show your commitment for education and academic freedom by signing this statement,” said Rebecca Pera, a College of Liberal Arts sophomore and member of the Progressive Student Organization.
Before going inside, demonstrators handed out fliers and carried signs criticizing the regents for their actions during the tenure crisis.
Arthur LaRue, a University Bookstore employee, said the protest was meant to raise awareness of the regents’ poor leadership. “The general fuck-you attitude the regents have needs to strongly be challenged,” he said. “This is one of the many ways to do this.”
After several emotional speeches, the protesters marched into the building chanting, “We want a regent! We want a regent!”
The protesters were initially met by Marvin Marshak, senior vice president for academic affairs, who said the crowd was too unruly to attend the meeting.
“Do you want to talk or do you want to yell?” Marshak asked.
After University Police were called to the scene to control the crowd and the protesters agreed not to disrupt the meeting, Marshak allowed about 30 protesters to enter the room.
The protesters sat quietly through an emotional farewell speech by Regent Jean Keffeler before PSO member Jennifer Udelhofen stood and began shouting at the regents.
Udelhofen was quickly escorted out of the room by a police officer and an angry Marshak.
“You promised you would behave, you have no credibility,” Marshak told Udelhofen.
Mario Bognanno, University President Nils Hasselmo’s chief of staff, agreed to allowed Pera to speak, but only after the regents finished their official business.
Pera then lambasted the regents for their poor leadership. She called on them to dismantle University 2000, Hasselmo’s plan to restructure the school and make it more competitive. U2000, Pera said, corporatizes the University and threatens academic freedom.
She also ripped the regents for their sale of University Hospital and any changes to the current tenure policy, which she said could “single-handedly destroy this public institution.”
The regents listened attentively, then quickly adjourned the meeting after Pera spoke, triggering outrage from members of the crowd who wanted the regents to sign the statement.
Enraged protesters yelled at the regents, directing many of their statements at Regents Chair Tom Reagan.
“Reagan, your actions in the past two days were malicious and have embarrassed everyone at this University,” said graduate student and PSO member Susan Solarz.
Reagan and the regents held an emergency meeting Thursday to pass a new tenure code for the Law School after the state reversed the school’s status quo order Wednesday.
Despite Marshak’s anger at some of the protestors, he said he supported their right to speak out.
“Academic freedom is a serious issue,” he said. “The fact that students would turn out to rally for academic freedom is great.”