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Police officers stand outside the doors of Baker Center as protesters are arrested by police inside on February 1, 2017.

Texts and emails show university official's reaction to protestors' arrests

Messages obtained in a Post public records request show Ohio University officials were flooded with texts, calls and emails about the arrest of 70 demonstrators in Baker Center on Feb. 1.

While the situation in Baker Center escalated, Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones, Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina and other university officials attended an OU Student Senate meeting where student representatives discussed the university’s response to Trump’s immigration policies. Assistant Dean of Students Jamie Patton watched the events in Baker Center and texted Hall-Jones updates.

“About to start arresting,” Patton texted Hall-Jones at about 7:30 p.m.

“I heard.  :(“ Hall-Jones replied.

At about 9 p.m., about two hours after the arrests began, Hall-Jones had already received over a hundred texts and 10 voicemails, according to a text she sent Patton.

University officials received emails from concerned students, faculty and alumni. Many emailed the officials asking for clarification on university policies. Others simply expressed their disagreement with the arrests.

“I was once proud to call myself a Bobcat,” wrote one alumni whose name was redacted. “Maybe one day I will be again. But, in light of last night's events, I am ashamed of Ohio University; I am ashamed of the administration; I am ashamed of OUPD.”

In order to answer the calls and emails she received after the arrests, Hall-Jones drafted a form email. She shared it in an email to other administrators, including Patton, Associate Dean of Students Patti McSteen and Director of Community Standards and Student Responsibility Martha Compton.

“Thank you so much for writing and expressing your concern for your alma mater, we appreciate it,” Hall-Jones’ email template began. “We also believe in protecting and supporting our international students as much as possible during this difficult and tumultuous time.”

Hall-Jones then outlined the university’s previous actions to address President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, including several letters then-president Roderick McDavis sent to legislators in criticism of Trump’s executive order on immigration.

After Feb. 1, police and university officials continued to monitor activism on campus. OUPD Chief Andrew Powers learned of a “sing-in” event assistant professor Patty Stokes planned for Feb. 2 afternoon in Baker Center in response to the arrests and advised her against the event. Powers offered to set up a “productive alternative” to the event, such as a meeting with campus officials and police to discuss the arrests.

Stokes replied that neither she nor her fellow demonstrators planned to disrupt any university activities, and the “sing-in” continued as planned.

Hall-Jones texted Pina and Executive Director of Event Services Dustin Kilgour after learning of the event and asked Kilgour to check reservations for Baker Center during that time. 

“Should we get together beforehand and formalize a strategy?” Kilgour said in a text.

“The police are on it,” Hall-Jones replied. “I’ll be back in my office this afternoon and we can connect.”


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