by Peter Prendergast
Editor in Chief
Earlier this week, the Missouri state legislature House Committee on Higher Education Appropriations voted to penalize the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus in response to the student activism that has dominated national headlines. Committee chair, Rep. Donna Lichtenegger has led the charge to deny the University of Governor Jay Nixon’s proposed 6% spending increase on all state colleges. “They are there to learn, not protest all day long,” Lichtenegger said. “I thought we learned that lesson in the ‘60’s. Obviously we haven’t.”
The committee also cited the University’s handling of tenured professor Melissa Click, who was captured on video trying to remove student journalists from a protest, as another reason for their punishment. The University has suspended Click in the interim, as they proceed to pursue their own disciplinary process. Lichtenegger recently remarked that “we wouldn’t be in this mess right now,” if the University had dismissed Click immediately after the incident, despite claims from the American Association of University Professors that such actions would be in violation of her right to due process.
Our freedom of assembly ensures for all Americans, college students especially, the right to organize and protest. An attack on this right is a crime as destructive as any other. Student protests have long been catalysts for social change, particularly during the 1960’s that Lichtenegger refers to, and it is reprehensible for elected officials to consider student demonstration of this kind to be a punishable offense.
Consider the harm that Lichtenegger’s committee is capable of. If the Missouri Legislature follows through with these actions, it may set a precedent allowing state governments to exercise unjust power over their universities. The committee’s proposal is clearly a disproportionate response to the events that took place this fall. Students at Missouri and elsewhere should not let this rash decision deter them from exercising their right. College administrators across the country as well should support the rights of their students.
A week ago, the Tripod reported a story in which Trinity property was vandalized with a racial slur. While there has yet to be large student activism in the wake of the incident, I commend our administrations response to it. In an interview, a number of Trinity’s deans addressed the issue of student protest. They articulated their sympathies for students affected by the vandalism and expressed their support for any students hoping to organize and address pertinent issues on campus.
There are certainly issues of administration that students at Trinity should be inquisitive of. However, the school’s support of its students right to demonstrate is not one of them.