MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - The University of Minnesota is going after some of the students who took over the office of President Eric Kaler in February. However, the students — and dozens of professors — say the University is setting a dangerous precedent.
In the past few days, more than 150 faculty members have signed a petition is support of the students who occupied Morrill Hall. The petition asks the University to drop disciplinary charges.
The incident in question, dubbed “The Morril Hall Takeover”, involved students from the group, “Whose Diversity?” forcing their way into President Kaler’s office demanding to speak with him.
“We were attempting to restore justice to aggrieved communities here at the University of Minnesota, specifically underrepresented students, underrepresented students of color,” said Rahsaan Mahadeo, a PhD student who is facing disciplinary action for the incident.
The takeover happened on February 9th. After hours of back and forth dialogue with University leaders, the police told the students to leave because the building was closing. Thirteen did not, saying their demands weren’t met, and were subsequently arrested.
Following the arrests, the city attorney agreed to drop the charges if the students stayed out of trouble for a year. However, the University pressed on with disciplinary charges against the students. Ten did not contest the charges. Three did; those students are Rahsaan Mahadeo, David Melendez, and Jesus Estrada-Perez. (Estrada-Perez later passed away.)
“This is the kind of conversation that any kind of disruption should be seen in good faith as an effort to make the University stronger, to make the University better, so those kinds of disruptions should really be brought to the table instead of pushed from it,” said Jennifer Marshall, a professor who signed the petition in support of the students.
The students told Fox 9 they understand that civil disobedience has consequences, but that fighting the University on this is about the future.
“There needs to be a clear way of how these issues are treated at campus so that other students know they have a right to activism on campus and a right to actually having justice,” Joanna Nunez, a graduate student who participated in the takeover, told Fox 9.
The two students fighting the University’s charges have a pre-hearing on October 13th.
The University did release a statement to Fox 9 saying: “The University of Minnesota has, and is committed to, a fair and equitable disciplinary process that is developmental in nature and is governed by due process. Disciplinary decisions under the Student Conduct Code are private educational data with respect to students.”