Three black students at Loyola University Chicago are facing possible suspension or other disciplinary action for holding a peaceful demonstration on campus last month.
The demonstration, held on November 12, was a rally in support of student protests at the University of Missouri. Some seven hundred students, faculty, and staff attended the event, and according to the organizers, attendance was boosted by a notice on the university’s website.
At the time, Loyola president John P. Pelissero praised the protest, saying that he was “proud of our community’s response” to the call to action, and that Loyola “celebrates the free exchange of ideas.” Yesterday, however, a campus spokesperson told the Chronicle of Higher Education that the students are being investigated because of “their decision to not register the demonstration, which is a violation of the university’s demonstration policy.”
That policy defines a demonstration as
“any event in which two or more people gather publicly in a coordinated and organized manner to display support or opposition for, or express a position or feeling toward a person, organization, or cause.”
Any student or group wishing to hold such a demonstration must submit a “Demonstration Proposal” form to the Dean of Students three business days in advance. Once such a proposal is submitted, the organizers must meet with the university to discuss “all elements of the planned demonstration … including any intended movements to other areas of campus.” Without written approval from the office of the dean, no such demonstration may be held. (One campus lawn is exempt from these regulations — there, students must merely reserve the space in advance with the Office of Campus Reservations.)
Any time that two or more students decide to get together in any public area of the Loyola Chicago Campus to “express a position or feeling toward a person, organization, or cause,” they need to contact the Dean of Students three business days in advance, detail their plans to the administration, and receive written approval. If they don’t, they can be brought up on disciplinary charges.
Set aside the absurd overreach of the university’s definition of a “demonstration,” which would, as written, extend to any two people deciding to get together in a public space to “express … a feeling” about someone else — or even themselves. Set that aside.
The students who organized the November 12 protests are scheduled to be charged at 3:45 this afternoon, in a meeting that could easily go past the close of business this evening.
If it does, and students want to express public disapproval of whatever happens there, they won’t be able to do so until next Thursday. They won’t even be able to apply to do so until Monday.
And again, this isn’t just theoretical. Three students are facing charges for holding a protest that the university president approved of.
Imagine how he’d respond if he were the target.
Update | The university has dropped charges against the three students, and is reviewing its demonstration policy.