U overly harsh on GC protestors

The case against the protestors is deterring dissent.

On Sept. 19, five University students will go to trial facing grand misdemeanor charges for trespassing. The students face a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail along with a $1,000 fine. The University’s decision to seek the harshest penalities does not bode well for the University in general.

The U’s heavy handedness is not surprising considering the movement to close the General College was conducted undemocratically and with a policy of silence. The announcement to close the General College was made about a month before finals and the people who were a part of the GC Truth Movement to stop the closing had to act quickly. They decided on a demonstration and sit-in. What came as a surprise, however, was the harshness of the University’s response. Instead of ticketing, arrests were made and students found themselves waiting for six to nine hours in jail, some of them in orange suits. The University should not be so harsh on students exercising their rights.

If anything, these students should be applauded for being part of a movement by many who did take action for General College, which is perhaps the only college which actively fulfilled the University’s land-grant status. It is upsetting that the University would have its own students arrested, especially because the students were absorbed in student life and activism on campus – qualities that all students are encouraged to have.

Granted, the students practiced civil disobedience knowing full well that there were consequences. But the University’s decision to make an example out of these students and not drop the cases reeks of iron-fisted power. Rather than use the General College protestors as an example, the University should offer realistic plea bargains. They should encourage prosecuters to reduce the fine and drop threats of prison time.

The relationship between the University and its students is already starting to be strained. Rising tuition, bad housing situations, campus safety and a move to build a football stadium are causing friction. How long will students take it?