Profs: Chastising disruptive protesters 'endangered' students

Several University of Oregon professors recently blasted President Michael Schill for his reaction to a student protest that forced the cancellation of a recent State of the University speech.

According to the professors, the students have been "potentially endangered" because Schill challenged their actions in a New York Times op-ed."

Professors at the University of Oregon are upset with conduct violations that were handed down to student protesters who recently disrupted a speech by the school’s own president.

In a letter to President Michael Schill and the Board of Trustees, the faculty members blast the disciplinary investigation that led to conduct violations as “rife” with problems, including “factual ambiguities,” “intimidation,” “investigatory errors,” and “derailing due process.”

“In our view, this has gone too far. It is time to de-escalate. We ask that you cease the punitive measures against students and engage in a dialogue without the cloud of threat or intimidation,” they wrote.

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The letter, posted to the UO Student Collective Facebook page, was signed by three professors and a student government official, all of whom wrote to “express [their] concern with the response of your office to the October 6, 2017 student protest of the State of the University Address.”

The protesters who disrupted Schill’s speech were charged in late October with conduct code violations on the grounds of “disruption of university” operations and “failure to comply,” according to The Daily Emerald.

Schill also penned an op-ed for The New York Times calling the protesters out for hypocrisy, noting that the “tactic of silencing” they employed is “awfully close” to the “fascism” they accused him of practicing.

“During the demonstration, activists took the stage and presented a list of demands created by a coalition of students. Your actions since this event have potentially endangered these students by calling out their actions in a national venue, and have escalated tensions in such a way as to obscure the concerns which precipitated the protest,” the letter states in response.

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Schill has “availed [himself] of campus, community, and national platforms to express [his] voice and reading of events,” the authors charge, claiming that these actions contradict his claim that he was silenced.

“Any appreciation of academic freedom and free speech must grapple with power. For faculty and graduate instructors, it is understood that any privileged platform brings responsibilities to assure speech opportunities for all voices in the classroom, not just the more vocal, visible and privileged,” the authors contend.

The letter goes on to state that a democracy works when all voices are heard, “even those viewed as disruptive, unusual, or repugnant,” adding that “the actions of [Schill’s] office, particularly [his] New York Times OpEd, have escalated tensions, and exposed our students to intimidation and ugly responses by online commenters.”

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According to the professors, their students have been made into a national mockery as a result of the attention given to the protest, which has placed them “in a vulnerable position” and cost them “any semblance of due process.”

Campus Reform reached out to the authors of the letter, as well as the university, but did not receive any responses in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @asabes10