Protester editorial missed the mark

There is no truth to the allegation that the University does not encourage activism.

The Sept. 12 editorial “U overly harsh on GC protesters” contains both legal and factual inaccuracies. First, the University does not prosecute crimes, does not decide whether to prosecute particular individuals, and is not involved in determining appropriate penalties for criminal activity. Prosecutors, judges and juries are responsible for these decisions in our criminal justice system, not the University of Minnesota. We did request and receive copies of publicly available information.

Second, while you correctly note that certain students were engaged in “civil disobedience knowing full well that there were consequences,” it is not true that the University has decided to “make an example out of these students.” The students chose to make examples of themselves. Prior to any arrests, the students were given numerous opportunities to leave the building when it closed for the evening, and thereby avoid arrest for their sit-in activity. Many protesters did just that. The choice of those who refused to leave when the building closed was a deliberate, voluntary choice to be arrested. Of the nine arrested building protesters, four have already pleaded guilty to petty misdemeanors and paid a fine. This plea bargain has been offered to all nine arrestees.

There is no truth to the allegation that the University does not encourage activism, or has not been willing to engage in robust dialog on the subject of General College. University officials participated in campus discussions. Protesters camped on the Mall to express their views. Rallies and meetings were held inside and outside University buildings. All of this was done lawfully and appropriately, and the University administration not only tolerated, but facilitated this process.

The Board of Regents’ eventual decision to endorse President Bruinink’s strategic plan and integrate General College into the College of Education and Human Development received overwhelming support from many in our community, most notably the University Senate by a vote of 120-3. The University respects the right to disagree. But disagreement must occur within legal limits. Those who choose to disagree by engaging in criminal misconduct must be prepared to face the consequences.

Mark Rotenberg is the University’s general counsel. Please send comments to [email protected]