Student protesters disrupt Board of Trustees meeting

Members of the OU Student Union escorted out by OUPD

From left to right: Megan Marzec, Ellie Hamrick, Jessica Lindner and Eden Almasude sit down in protest of the 1.6 percent tuition increase which was approved, demanding salaries be frozen for OU employees making more than $100,000. They were later escorted by police out of the meeting. (Ramon Luis Nieves | For The Post)

About 15 students disrupted Ohio University's Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning to protest an impending tuition increase.

Trustee Sandra Anderson, sitting chairwoman, gave multiple warnings before suspending the meeting. All trustees then stood up and left the room.

However, despite the warnings, Megan Marzec, one of the protestors, a sophomore studying studio art and a member of the OU Student Union, continued to speak out against the hike.

"When our university's Board of Trustees is willing to sacrifice its own students at the altar of the free market, it is clear that you see us as nothing more than a revenue stream." Marzec said. "But we are not!"

Protests continued with students chanting "Chop from the top" and "Whose debt? Our debt!" while officers on duty gave them a one-minute warning to "leave or be arrested."

Students responded by taking a seat on the ground.

After brief chants, the protesters were escorted out for violating Ohio Revised Code 2917.12.

The Ohio Revised code states that no person, with purpose to prevent or disrupt a lawful meeting, procession, or gathering, shall act in a way that obstructs or interferes with the due conduct of such meeting, procession, or gathering.

"They have been arrested and charged with a 4th-level desmeanor for disrupting a lawful meeting," Ohio University Police Chief Andrew Powers said.

Ellie Hamrick, Eden Almasude, Jessica Lindner and Marzec were the four students charged. Their court date is set for Monday.

During the meeting, trustees passed a resolution to raise tuition 1.6 percent. OU currently charges in-state undergraduates $10,216 per year in tuition and fees. That number will now increase to $10,380 for the 2013-14 school year.

"We came to realize that the 1.6 (percent) number is probably about the best place for us for the 2013-2014 fiscal year," Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding said at Thursday's joint committee meeting.

After the demonstrators were escorted out and the meeting resumed, outgoing student trustee Allison Arnold addressed the board.

"Those individuals that just stood up represent many different students," she said. "I am extremely shaken up with what has taken place at this meeting. I want to recognize how passionate they are. I respect those students. I care about them."

During a news conference after the meeting's conclusion, OU President Roderick McDavis made a statement.

"I support the expression of free speech that took place … but I do not condone the manner in which the protests were carried out," he said. "Unfortunately, the disruption by some students detracted from the message and undermined the event’s overall effectiveness."

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