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Clara Triana, president of the International Student Union, speaks to students at the Bobcat 70 One Year Later Conversation hosted by the LGBT center on Feb. 1, 2018. (HANNAH RUHOFF | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Student activists speak out against the university at Baker 70 panel

One year after the Baker 70 arrests, the Ohio University LGBT Center and Students for Law, Justice and Culture held a panel Thursday with students to discuss what has changed since the arrests.

Francisco Cintron, vice president of the Students for Law, Justice and Culture and a senior studying history, said the group created the panel to continue discussions about the interim “Freedom of Expression” policy.

“The reason we are doing this is because we noticed that on our campus there has been a huge, sort of, gap in the discussions taking place in regards to these issues,” Cintron said. “For a lot of people, we felt that these discussions that we were having were very devoid of some very significant discussions which, were in particular, the motives, for example, of the Bobcat 70 last year.”

The panel consisted of four speakers who spoke for about 10 minutes each and then posed a question to the audience. The audience was then encouraged to split into small groups and discuss the question proposed by the speaker. After, everyone was asked to share what their group’s conclusions.

Iris Virjee, a junior studying urban planning and sustainability, spoke first. She recalled a year ago when she was a “naive, budding activist,” helping to plan the protest of the travel ban with more experienced activists.

“We saw the Iranian students demonstration, standing in the January wind, carrying the words, ‘I miss my family’ while the university administration sat comfortably in their offices,” Virjee said.

Virjee recalled the panic she said police officers caused when they threatened arrest and closed in on the protesters in the Baker rotunda. 

“While we sang, we were dragged from each others arms one by one, some sobbing, terrified, some calm sighing ‘this wasn’t supposed to happen,' ” Virjee said.

“For now, we have lost the battle, but we have gained a stronger community.”

Carla Triana, president of the International Student Union and a senior studying international business, told her story of how her personal experience gave her the power to speak up for those who do not have the ability or privilege to do so.

“I did it because, at that point I was already a U.S. citizen,” she said. “I did it for the undocumented immigrants. I did it for the international students. I did it for the DACA students because if I wasn’t a citizen, I would have been one of those student who are in fear of deportation.”

delfin bautista, director of the OU LGBT Center, spoke next. bautista discussed how the arrests of the Baker 70 affected the relationships of students and university faculty.

“Is faculty and staff failed?” bautista asked. “Where were we a year ago? Where are we today? How much, as a faculty, as an administrator, as a staff person, can we speak? How much can we push? How do we spark students to tap into their own power and voice to set all afire when we can’t even do that ourselves?”

Olivia Busby, a fifth-year senior studying African American studies and screenwriting and producing, said tenured staff members need to backup their colleagues.

Georgia Curran, a sophomore studying communications, said a lot of the people who need to participate in conversations like that were not present at the panel.

The panel concluded with Bailey Noonan, a senior studying international studies, who said her arrest was to show allegiance to the international community.

“I feel incredibly privileged that I get to have … daily interactions with you all,” Noonan said. “It’s been a huge part of my college experience.”


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