Ohio State Turns the Concept of ‘Safe Space’ Against Student Protesters
At Ohio State last week, a sit-in and protest inside a university building was cut short when students were warned that they would be forcibly removed by police, arrested, and possibly expelled if they did not vacate the premises within a few hours, by 5 a.m.Here’s video of an administrative messenger relaying the warning to the protesters:
I’m usually skeptical of any decision to call the police on peaceful protesters or to expel students. The video itself doesn’t display any evidence that such actions were justified in this case, although the full facts of the incident are still emerging. And there’s a chance the administrators were bluffing.
Regardless, this video is noteworthy for two reasons. The first is the manner adopted by the main messenger, which is a common one for real-world authority figures—he is respectful, blunt, and not particularly apologetic or deferential—but I do not recall seeing other college administrators adopt it. His words:
If you are students, and I think the vast majority of you are, I want you to understand that you are violating the student code of conduct. As dictated to me by [university president] Dr. Drake 15 minutes ago to me on the phone, we have chosen to try to work with you this evening because we respect you. This is your university.
And we want to have dialogue. We want the dialogue to extend beyond tonight. But if you refuse to leave, then you will be charged with a student code of conduct violation.And I’m telling you this now because I want you to have good thought and careful consideration. If you’re here at 5 a.m. we will clear the building and you will be arrested. And we will give you the opportunity to go to jail for your beliefs. Our police officers will physically pick you up, take you to a paddywagon, and take you to be jail.
Lots of college administrators decide to clear protests with force—recall the pepper-spraying cop at UC Davis, for example—but taking a preemptive, hardline position, bluntly and transparently, is a striking departure from other occupations I’ve seen.
But I’m equally fascinated by the justification that the university’s messenger offers to the students to explain why Ohio State leaders decided on the hardline approach: He accuses the students of denying a safe space to the workers in the building!