by Gabriela Mendez
UT has announced a new protest policy that’s been in the works since 2016 and was recently revised in 2017. UT students must now fill out a form before carrying out a protest on campus.
“We wanted a procedure in place so students could safely plan a protest or demonstration,” Ian McGinnity, the director of Student Leadership and Engagement (OSLE), said. “Also, the University community would be aware of the event.”
Leah Mize, freshman journalism major believes that the new policy takes away the spontaneity of protests and creates a disconnect by trying to make protests orderly.
“This policy is a restriction as well because it’s not only taking away the spontaneity but also the impact a protest has,” Mize said. “Where the university can easily deny someones protest because they see it as not friendly to the campus and their views.”
This form is found in the Leadership portal of Engage UT. The form asks students to list the name of their student organization (if applicable) and the point person’s name and cell phone number. It can be completed by members of a student organization or a group of students. Also, the date, time, location, purpose and expected attendance of the protest should be included. After completing the form, the student will receive a meeting request so we can discuss their planned event including safety.
“The policy is not meant to serve as a restriction against student protests,” McGinnity said. “Whether students were protesting an external policy or world event or something UT-related, they would be encouraged to complete the form and go through the same process.”
Maddie Dolan, freshman majoring in Journalism feel the form discourages protests against the university. Dolan said she would feel awkward going into fill it out if she did want to protest.
“Students are strongly encouraged to utilize this form so they have the opportunity to discuss their event,”McGinnity said.
Some see this policy as a trick for UT to control the way students would carry out their protests, which some believe takes away the power from the protest. Students should read the form carefully before signing, according to Dolan.
“This policy was created to best serve students who may want to speak out about something,” McGinnity said. “The biggest catalyst was the 2016 presidential election which demonstrated that people in this country have multiple perspectives on a variety of subjects.”
While some students don’t fully like or understand the reason to implement this new policy, there are some that understand why the university did it even if they themselves see the rule as unnecessary.
“I think it’s not a great rule, but it makes sense for an institution to have it because it needs to know what it’s students are doing especially if they are gathering,” Mize said.