In the wake of student demonstrations this school year that have drawn inconsistent — and highly criticized — responses from school administrators, Loyola University this week proposed significant changes to its policy on campus protests.
Students no longer would have to gain approval to protest — which was something at issue in a Nov. 12 #BlackLivesMatter demonstration organized by minority students in solidarity with their University of Missouri peers protesting racism on that campus.
All protests held in an orderly manner now will be allowed. They can be held anywhere outdoors — they’d been restricted to one specific spot before — and can be held indoors in two places: Damen Student Center and Terry Student Center. That had been a point of contention at a Nov. 20 demonstration, sponsored by the student government, held to support increased wages and health benefits for food-service workers.
“I think overall the progress to the policy is overwhelmingly positive,” said Lillian Osborne, a senior who was among four students who had faced disruptive and disorderly conduct charges after the fair wages protest.
“It’s really important to recognize the reason that the demonstration policy changed was because of the work of student organizers and activists on campus,” she said. “For a long time, the administration has told us absolutely no, we will not change the policy. This is a huge success and we need to celebrate that, but we also must remain vigilant about creating an environment where political speech and freedom of expression are embraced and not suppressed.”
The change came as students were planning a “Rally to Support Kesha and End Rape Culture” that was held Friday at Loyola’s West Quad. It was originally to precede a concert by Kesha, who is embroiled in a legal battle with her Sony producer, whom she is suing for alleged emotional and sexual abuse. The concert was canceled, but the rally went on as scheduled.
About 30 students showed up for the rally, including students from DePaul University and Columbia College.
The students chanted, “Free Free Kesha!” And “Stop Silencing Survivors!” They heard from several representatives of campus groups. Most spoke of what they called the rape culture in society, and on college campuses — a culture that objectifies women and vilifies rape victims. Others spoke out in support of Kesha, who maintains she was raped by her producer.
In the two protests held in November, the Loyola administration had moved to discipline all the student organizers, which unleashed a backlash from its student body.
The university then dropped charges leveled against three students in the Mizzou demonstration, and disruptive and disorderly conduct charges against Osborne and three others. But it sanctioned the Student Government Association in the fair wages protest.
Students had called the current policy governing protests too restrictive, with thousands of petition signatures garnered. Interim President John Pelissero issued the policy revisions in a letter to the university community on Tuesday.
“We have gathered input from students, faculty, and staff,” Pelissero wrote. “The dialogue has been constructive and respectful … as we work to finalize a demonstration policy that better allows our students to express their views in a safe and timely manner.”
A final policy will be issued after a two-week review period.