Decision on protest guidelines tabled

Allegheny Student Government voted to table ASG Resolution 17-03 on Tuesday, April 4. The resolution, which is meant to outline ASG’s views on the college’s Peaceful Assembly Guidelines following concern that they might hinder students’ ability to protest on campus, will be brought back to the floor for discussion on Tuesday, April 11.

Resolution 17-03 was brought to ASG by Director of Diversity and Inclusion Yemi Olaiya, ’17. Olaiya could not be present at the April 4 meeting and Co–Director of Student Affairs Sydney Fernandez, ’17, filled in for her to answer questions about the resolution.

In addition to her position as director of student affairs, Fernandez also serves as the science and international editor of The Campus.

When the proposed resolution was brought to the floor, the senate voted to enter a five-minute moderated discussion on the resolution.

Sen. Jason Ferrante, ’20, said other colleges around the country have similar policies in place and that Dean of Students Kimberly Ferguson stated the college adopted the guidelines primarily for insurance reasons and to ensure students were not negatively impacted by protests.

“We don’t want students to be harmed or harassed,” Ferrante said.

Chief of Staff Hayden Moyer, ’17, said he felt the guidelines adopted by the college were primarily so that there was a protocol in place.

“I think this is mostly so that the college has something on paper on what to do in the event of a protest,” Moyer said.

The primary concern, which the resolution hoped to address, was the idea that a student protest could be moved if another protest or a counter protest were to occupy the same space, Fernandez said, speaking for Olaiya.

“Allegheny Student Government is against any policy that would permit public safety or another entity to move a protest due to a counter assembly occupying the same space,” resolution 17-03 reads in part.

Co–Director of Student Affairs Matt Hartwell, ’18, said in a previous draft of the protest guidelines, the college did have the power to move student protesters. He said this power was not granted in the final set of guidelines that was adopted by the college.

Allegheny Student Government is against any policy that would permit public safety or another entity to move a protest due to a counter assembly occupying the same space.

— ASG Resolution 17–03

In the adopted Peaceful Assembly Guidelines, the college, in the event of a “counter-assembly,” has the right to “identify” an alternate space for one of the groups in order to ensure the safety of both groups. The guidelines do not specify if the college has the right to move them, or what action would follow “identifying” the space.

“A peaceful assembly on campus may invite another form of assembly. When these occasions arise, the expression of all parties is important. Please note that another area may be identified for those persons with views that differ from those held by the event organizers,” the guidelines read in part.

The guidelines also state that, in order to ensure a peaceful protest, “public safety may be required in order to ensure the safety of all participants,” and ensure that “the peaceful assembly guidelines are upheld.”

The guidelines do not specifically state if a peaceful protest may be forced to move by the college.

In addition to outlining policies in the event of a counter-assembly or protest, the guidelines also state a protest may not interfere with the day-to-day operation of the college.

“The College has the right to go about its business and not be subjected to unreasonable disruption of, or increased cost associated with, the conduct of its business and delivery of services to students, faculty, staff and the greater Meadville community,” the guidelines read in part.

Fernandez said the guidelines are vague on what identifying a different space for one of the groups means.

“If they are protesting in Brooks Circle, what is an equivalent space?” Fernandez asked.

Moyer said he agreed the language of the guidelines is vague and suggested that the resolution be revised to address those concerns.

The resolution is scheduled to return to the floor at ASG’s next general assembly meeting which will be held on Tuesday, April 11 at 7 p.m. on the third floor of the campus center. The meeting will be open to all students.