By LINDSAY WELBERS
A year after the University of Chicago Police Department arrested four people advocating for a trauma care center, the committee established to determine suitable practices has released its decisions.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Protest and Dissent released its findings last month in a seven-page document with recommendations for how the university and UCPD should act when dissent occurs on campus.
The committee’s task came after UCPD forcibly arrested protesters who had staged a sit-in at the then-closed $700 million Center for Care and Discovery. The students and community members marched on the university to demand that it build a trauma care center that would serve victims of gunshot wounds, car accidents and other violence.
The four people arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, though the charges were later dropped in one case and others were given a sentence that included only probation.
The committee recommended that in future protests the police handle the activity only minimally and including allocating additional resources for the dean-on-call program. It also advised that the decision to contact UCPD during demonstrations should be made by high-ranking university officials, if at all.
It also advised that the university is entitled to impose strict limits on protest activity “that threatens especially sensitive facility and to enforce those limits if they are breached. We do not think it is possible to specify, acontextually, what these limits might be.” They do recommend making those limits clearly noted.
The committee said that the university should expect that members of the community will protest on campus and often with students and it should minimize differences in treatment between those affiliated and those not affiliated with the school.
“The university can also insist on certain standards of behavior (and impose discipline accordingly) in its relationship with members of the university community,” the committee, chaired by U. of C. law professor David Strauss said. It did not recommend specific standards of conduct.
The committee made a special note that “an atmosphere that welcome[s] protest and dissent is, as we have said, a component of the University’s educational mission, the university should consider introducing students more explicitly to the specific policies governing protest and dissent and, perhaps more important, to the University’s general principals about protest and dissent.” It suggested that those could be made clear during orientation week.
Lastly, the committee noted that the written policies currently provide for an all-university disciplinary system that has not been used in decades and that the language provided in it is too broad.