Council creates protest policy

Augustana’s first protest policy has been drafted by the Faculty Council, which  includes guidelines from which a protest is meant to accomplish.

“Hopefully it’s read as encouraging of expressing ideas in ways that are healthy for the community,” said Sharon Varallo, professor of communication studies and member of the Faculty Council.

The idea of a protest policy comes after a demonstration by members of the Black Student Union and other students last trimester, which junior Vicky Gillon helped organize. She said she was surprised when she first read the draft of the policy.

“It seems really short and not that specific, which makes me happy,” Gillon said.

So far, the draft includes a paragraph about how Augustana recognizes that demonstrations and protests are valuable forms of speech, but that these demonstrations should not distract from students’ education.

The draft also lists two additional guidelines. The first states that the college will not intervene to regulate the ideas or content of protests; the second states that protests should follow policies regarding group activities, as well as health and safety laws. Protestors should abide by the law and have their Augustana ID on hand.

Varallo said the protest policy was written to show students that freedom of speech is a right and is promoted on campus.

“Faculty council had a conversation about the various impacts of the demonstration on campus and one of the members of council had looked to see if we had a policy in part because we were encouraging of the demonstrations and we want students to be actively engaged,” said Varallo.

There are a couple areas of the draft Gillon said are not ideal, including the overall vagueness of the policy.

“The only really thing that I would kind of have a problem with is the noise level concern for students’ health and safety,” said Gillon. “I sometimes think that with our demonstration in particular, we were loud in certain areas. And I feel like noise levels here could maybe mean someone has a right to say that we should not protest somewhere where there are high noise levels.”

Gillon said she understands that the policy wants to make sure that students are respectful during protests, though.

The Faculty Council is made up of 12 members, but Varallo said the protest policy will have to be approved by all faculty.

Gillon said before the demonstration held in the winter, she and other leaders of the protest researched other colleges’ protest policies to get an understanding of what other schools expect. They also read through Augustana’s student handbook and “viewed (the demonstration) through that lens.”

“I was surprised that we didn’t have (a policy) because we are a small, liberal arts school that has a history of somewhat of demonstrations or protests so I thought we would have, like other schools, made at least some,” said Gillon.

But Gillon said if the new policy protest draft passes, she hopes it will show students that protests can happen and that the policy will give them a guideline to

“I want this campus to remain active while I’m here and when I leave in social justice,” said Gillon. “So having the campus be aware that protests and demonstrations and other things like the die-in are an option for students—right now I agree that they are putting out a protest policy.”