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So Listen: The protests that have shaped this decade’s freedom of speech at OU

Protesting is a vital part of the American democracy. After all, protesting is what started this country. In 1962, Ohio University President Vernon R. Alden described freedom of expression as “a profound part of our heritage,” and said that “freedom of inquiry and discussion is essential to a student’s educational development” in a policy speech. It is important that college students participate in protests if they experience something that they feel is unjust and want to see a change.

OU students have never shied away from protests or civil discourse. The past decade has proved that. 

In 2011, students protested OU budget cuts and Ohio Senate Bill 5. 250 students participated in the protest despite the rainy weather, proving their commitment to their cause. They chanted “no ifs, no buts, no budget cuts.” The protesters had an issue with fewer resources and faculty cuts, as it was their opinion that this would decrease the quality of education.

In 2012, most protests concerned the proposed 3.5% increase on tuition for all incoming students. The protest that gained the most notoriety was a sit-in of around 30 students inside of Cutler Hall. Protesters held signs that said “Public education is a right not to be sold.”

The protests for tuition hikes continued in 2013. In April, around 200 students flooded the streets in protest of yet another 3.5% increase in tuition. The students took issue with the fact that tuition increases kept occurring, yet administrators at the top continued to get pay raises. They chanted “Tuition hike needs to stop, chop from the top.”

The protests of 2014 changed course from the issues of OU’s finance that the beginning of the decade saw. In August 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer. Protests erupted all over the nation and sparked several at OU.

Tuition hikes persisted in 2015, and protests followed. This time, the proposed tuition increase was 5.1%. Around 60 students protested at College Green in mid-January. Protesters carried signs that read “R.I.P. our future” and “I can barely afford this.” In a separate protest a week later, three Student Senate members were charged for blocking traffic.

2016 was a year of limited protests. That year, however, alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at OU. While the preparation for his visit caused protests, he was met with little to no opposition when he arrived on campus. In his speech, he commented that OU was low-energy for its lack of protests against him. 

2017 was the year of the infamous Baker 70 protest. Around 300 students participated in a sit-in at Baker Center to protest President Trump’s immigration ban — consequently, 70 people were arrested. This was met with a lot of controversy about when and where students are allowed to protest, and if the First Amendment right to protest had been infringed upon or if the students were being disruptive. It was the opinion of many people at the time that the Baker 70 students were wrongfully arrested.

Today, and moving forward

The most recent protests at OU have been concerning the budget crisis. With faculty cuts and tuition increases possibly looming, both students and professors have been driven to protest and start a movement. Faculty have protested against “Right to Work” laws and the idea of a faculty union has surfaced. 

The “OU Fun Facts” movement has also brought attention to the budget crisis and faculty cuts. Recently, a protest of around 200 people, faculty and students, occurred at College Green and in front of Cutler Hall. “OU Fun Facts” is not ending its activism there; at the protest, the movement made clear that it plans on fighting for the cause until the administration responds.

If there is one common thread through most of the protests in the past decade, it is that OU has been dealing with a financial problem for about ten years now: budget cuts and tuition increases, year by year. If the university is spending less yet making more, why is there currently a budget crisis? 

The fact that they are cutting back in areas where it will affect the quality of education yet profiting more and more off students every year should make you angry. The injustice facing current and future OU students and faculty is past approaching; it has been happening for years now. 

While these protests may seem plentiful, they have not yet been enough to actually get Ohio University to act in a way that benefits students. Moving forward, it is going to take more outrage from more students to enact change. We must be persistent, we must come in numbers, and we must not stop until we see the change that we want.  

Mikayla Rochelle is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those ofThe Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Mikayla by tweeting her at @mikayla_roch.

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