Civil Disobedience: Student protestors are charged for disruption

Ohio University police escort Ohio University students Jessica Lindner, Megan Marzec, Ellie Hamrick, and Eden Almasude out of a Board of Trustees meeting on April 19. (Ramon Luis Nieves | For The Post)

The rain didn’t deter the fiery opposition of several Ohio University students who interrupted the Board of Trustees meeting Friday — and were arrested for it.

About 15 students interrupted the board’s meeting Friday morning in response to the approved 1.6 percent tuition increase, which raises OU’s current in-state tuition and fees of $10,216 to $10,380 annually. The students demanded a salary freeze for administrators and athletic coaches making more than $100,000 given the passing of the tuition increase. Four of those students were arrested for disturbing a lawful meeting.

Prior to the meeting, the students met on the fourth floor of Baker University Center to prepare.

“It’s a threat to students, what the Board of Trustees is deciding,” said Jacob Chaffin, a junior studying education and spokesman for the OU Student Union, before the meeting. “They are endangering the livelihood and future of students everywhere.”

Students carried a sign to the front of the trustees’ meeting room reading “Education is not a commodity.” They chanted, “Chop from the top” and “Whose debt? Our debt!”

Vice Chair Sandra Anderson, sitting chairwoman for the Board of Trustees, warned the students several times to leave before suspending the meeting, after which all trustees exited the room. Officers followed with a one-minute warning for student to leave.

Four of them sat on the floor instead: Ellie Hamrick, a senior studying anthropology; Jessica Lindner, a sophomore studying environmental and plant biology; Megan Marzec, a sophomore studying studio art; and Eden Almasude, a second-year graduate student studying African Studies.

“We will not remove ourselves from our current positions until you take action to ensure that the sacrifice will truly be shared,” Marzec said. “We refuse to move until such a plan is adopted by the board.”

The four were arrested for violating the Ohio Revised Code 2917.12, which states no person shall obstruct or interfere with a lawful meeting.

All received fourth-level misdemeanor charges and were released with a Monday-morning court date. If convicted, each could face a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail or a $250 fine, or both, said Andrew Powers, chief of OU’s Police Department.

“Our job is to maintain order,” Powers said. “Our job is to get the meeting back in order.”

An online fund set up to help cover the women’s legal fees has raised more than $1,100 in donations.

When the students were led out and the trustees resumed their meeting, outgoing student trustee Allison Arnold was the only board member to acknowledge the student demonstration.

“I respect those students,” Arnold said. “It may be a disruption … but it was out of their love for Ohio University.”

After the meeting, OU President Roderick McDavis made a statement regarding the protest.

“In the spirit of shared governance, I look forward to continued conversations with students about ways in which we can move our university vision forward,” McDavis said. “It is my hope that we can accomplish these discussions in a manner that supports Ohio’s commitment to respect and civility.”

The OU Student Union is planning another student protest at 4:30 p.m. Thursday on College Green to reiterate their salary freeze demand, ask that the tuition increase be used to foster diversity and ask that the charges against the four students be dropped.

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