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Interim President announces protest guidelines to be released

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Monday night’s faculty senate opened with a discussion from Interim President David Descutner on the Ohio University Baker Center sit-in on Feb. 1 and how the university administration may react to spontaneous protests in the future.

Descutner noted that just as protests are rarely as simple as a group of students advocating for a cause, how OU administration and police react to any given protest is just as variable.

“Our first concern must be with the community,” Descutner said.

He also informed the senate body that a set of guidelines in the form of a brochure would be coming in the near future, and that student and faculty input would be welcomed. How that process will happen has not been announced yet.

OUPD Chief of Police Andrew Powers was also in attendance to help answer questions, including whether free speech zones still exist (they don’t), what will be in the brochure and when outside agencies like state police are involved in handling protests. Powers explained that the brochure will include what reasonable limits dictate the expression of the right to free speech, tips for dealing with police and what to expect in the process of being arrested.

On the topic of bringing in outside agencies, Powers explained the process this way: “It’s essentially at my discretion. I only bring out that level of force when we have to, and it’s based on what resources I think I’m going to need.”

Powers also noted that administration is alerted of protests, but not brought in. Descutner then ended the discussion by explaining that there is no interest from the university in becoming a sanctuary campus, but not because there isn’t concern for caring for international members of OU’s community.

“It’s because of the explicit warning,” he said, referencing President Donald Trump’s promise to withdraw funding from sanctuary cities.

The  Educational Policy and Student Affairs committee presented a plan to help integrate the new WN grade discussed in OU Policy 12.040, which is translated as Withdrawn Never Attended. This grade would not affect GPA or earn credit. The resolution also allows for instructors’ input in when the students stopped attending class, which can affect student financial aid if the date is less than 60 percent through a semester.

Greg Fialko, a Benefits Advisory Council representative, proposed a change to faculty benefits to help meet the council’s goal of not exceeding 5 percent of annual increases to health care costs contributed by OU. These changes include updated cost projections and an 11-to-12 percent increase in prescription drug costs for faculty. This is due to an uptick of specialty drug usage, which costs more.

The next faculty senate meeting will be April 3 at 7:10 p.m. in Walter 235.

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