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McDavis: University cannot drop charges against student protesters

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Faculty Senate passed a resolution Monday that called for charges to be dropped against the 70 students and community members who were arrested last week at the Baker sit-in.

The resolution included a provision that asked the students in question not face any academic repercussions or actions from the Office of Community Standards. Additionally, President McDavis and Provost Pam Benoit are to meet with the student protesters in an open forum, the time and location of which are to be decided.

Benoit must sign or decline the resolution within 60 days.

More than 100 faculty members have also signed a petition calling for the university to implement the aforementioned measures.

In his last Faculty Senate appearance, McDavis addressed the sit-in, saying the administration did not order the arrests but supports Ohio University Police Department’s actions. He said OU encourages and celebrates the freedom of speech and assembly on campus, but the safety of students, faculty and staff always has to be the top priority.

“OUPD was acting within the scope of its duties to protect and handle what they believed to be an unsafe situation,” McDavis said. “OUPD did not stop the group from protesting, but rather invited them to continue their protest in a location that would allowed continued use of Baker Center for all.”

When asked about a similar sit in in 2014, McDavis said one main difference was that protest occurred later in the night and Baker was not crowded, whereas the #sitinsanctuaryOU protest blocked the area from students.

The first arraignment for those arrested occurred Monday morning, with a second court date set for this Thursday.

While McDavis reinforced the university’s support for international students, he said the campus will not be declared a “sanctuary campus,” nor will it add “immigrant” to the list of protected groups under the anti-discrimination policy. OU already forbids discrimination based on “national origin,” a term McDavis said encompasses immigrants.

OU’s general counsel John Biancamano responded to several complaints about the lack of clarification by saying the law does not include immigrants as a protected class and OU has to abide by the law.

In addition to not being a “necessary label,” McDavis said becoming a sanctuary campus could cause OU to lose the federal and state funding that allows the university to operate. He reported no Ohio University students or faculty have been stopped at the border and the school has already provided support to about 100 students, each of whom is from one of the seven countries listed in President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“I believe that actions speak louder than words,” McDavis said. “I hope the students, faculty and staff at Ohio University see and hear that we are taking action . . . We are not just giving it a politically-charged label. One election will not undo the welcoming and inviting community we have spent over 200 years producing. We will not allow it.”

Throughout the meeting, McDavis fielded questions from students and professors who were disappointed with the actions of the university. Two of the protest’s organizers, Bobby Walker and Jolana Watson, made a statement affirming their demand for OU to become a sanctuary campus.

In response to several comments in which students and faculty called the administration’s response to the recent executive order lackluster, McDavis highlighted the school’s commitment to working with individuals who could be affected.

He said that on the morning of the protest, he was at a meeting with the leaders of Student Senate and Graduate Student Senate, future interim president David Descutner, VP for Student Affairs Jason Pina and others. The group met to discuss the pressure to become a sanctuary campus, among other issues.
“I just want to make the point that we were talking to the leaders of two senates the same day the protest occurred,” McDavis said. “To say that we are oblivious is wrong, to say that the administration has not done anything in this issue is dead wrong. We have done a lot and we will continue to do a lot.”

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