Students face hurdles to protest

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Students stand in St. Vincent’s Circle in the Lincoln Park campus on Nov. 12. in solidarity with Mizzou students. (Photo by Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

Students at Loyola University can now protest on campus without the institution’s approval — a right students at DePaul University do not have. 

According to DePaul’s policy, students are granted the right to protest on campus grounds only after the Student Center has approved their request. While protesting, students must allow others to pass freely and to not interfere in university activities such as classes.

These rules also apply to protests off campus, which insist that students cannot abuse and misrepresent the name of the university or disrupt its function as an educational institution.

“What they’re saying is if you’re protesting and all of a sudden you are completely obstructing all the entrances and exits of the Student Center, probably someone from Public Safety is going to intervene and say you can keep protesting, but you can’t specifically block peoples’ ability to get in and out of buildings,” said Amy Mynaugh, director of the Office of Student Involvement, which helps students plan for school-approved demonstrations.

DePaul has its own, at times controversial, history of student protests and demonstrations on campus.

In 2013 a conservative student organization received permission from the university to hang pro-life flags on the Quad to demonstrate the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. A liberal student organization asked permission to demonstrate their pro-choice position, but was denied by the university for reasons unknown. In an act of retribution, students from the liberal group then vandalized the flags and were reprimanded.

This incident led the Huffington Post in 2013 to name DePaul as the fifth worst university for freedom of speech in the country. However, there were other protests over the years that did abide by DePaul policy.

A year later in May 2014, a pro-Palestinian group began protesting DePaul’s investment of tuition dollars in companies who gave money to Israel, claiming the state violated the human rights of Palestinians. Pro-Israeli groups in turn started demonstrating alongside the pro-Palestinian group, arguing that the claims of human rights violations were unfounded.

The latest major demonstration at DePaul was held by the Black Lives Matter movement, which strove to validate black life following several shootings of black men by white police officers in the U.S. The national movement extended to DePaul, where students demonstrated in the Quad earlier this year.

After groups such as Black Lives Matter obtain permission to demonstrate on campus from the Student Center, they have the option to go to the Office of Student Involvement to sketch out a plan.

“We want to be partners with organizations who want to do demonstrations and protests, we can walk you through all these policies so you know what you’re up against,” Mynaugh said.

Since Mynaugh began working at DePaul over a year ago, demonstrations are the most common method used to get a message across, she said.

“Less of protests but more of ‘we’re going to stand here symbolically and in solidarity with people who we identity as part of our community and are going through a struggle,’” Mynaugh said.

Perhaps because these demonstrations are not as rowdy as city-wide protests in years past, Mynaugh said that, to her knowledge, no on-campus protest has been shut down by DePaul.

One group that has had no issues with DePaul policy is the DePaul College Republicans.

“I know that in our experience as an organization at DePaul has been very good,” said Nicole Been, president of the political club. “They’ve been really open to everything we want to put out, like posters and speakers that we’ve wanted to bring.”

However, Been said that the DePaul College Republicans do not organize outdoor protests or demonstrations that consist of students on campus grounds. Instead, the club sets up indoor events headlined by guest speakers.

“If we’re going to events it’s to actually learn and get the other opinion, not to cause a ruckus, because I think that people don’t understand how much time and effort goes into events and speakers,” Been said.

By crudely protesting an event, the atmosphere changes from productive activism to an unproductive spectacle. “That’s not fair to the speaker, that’s not fair to the organization who’s bringing the speaker. That’s not fun to the people who actually want to see the speaker and learn something,” Been said.

Marc Filippino, president of the DePaul Society of Professional Journalists, an organization that supports the right to free speech and ethical journalism, said that protests and demonstrations can be a productive way to voice one’s views.

“As long as they’re not breaking any laws, as long as there is a good civil conversation going on and that there is no violence,” Filipino said. “Protests are a really important part of our democracy, a really great demonstration of our first amendment rights and that they should not be frowned upon. They should be applauded.”