Zeitgeist, History, Time, Space, Elude Rutgers With New Campus ‘Protest Policy’

In an apparent attempt to clarify what it means to cause a disruption to school activities, Rutgers University appears to have forgotten the pivotal role campuses play as incubators of social justice movements.

According to the Home New Tribune, the university’s board of directors took to the bylaws in response to no incident in particular to set parameters on protest in what has been characterized by the union at Rutgers as a restriction of political expression.

Under the new policy, groups may not:

  • Obstruct vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian, or other traffic;
  • Obstruct entrances or exits to buildings or driveways;
  • Interfere with educational activities inside or outside any building;
  • Harass passersby;
  • Interfere with or preclude a scheduled speaker from being heard;
  • Interfere with scheduled university ceremonies or events;
  • Damage property, including lawns, shrubs, or trees; or
  • Engage in any other activities that disrupt university business

I don’t think any reasonable person would suggest that violating local ordinances should be tolerated, at least not by municipal officials, and certainly no one should condone harassment of passersby or damaging property, but this list touches on several hallmarks of peaceful protest, and particularly campus protest.

More, there have been several instances where protest organizers have sought the assistance of the New Brunswick Police Department in escorting protestors through city streets. This policy by local law enforcement should be encouraged and city police should be applauded. Would Rutgers not allow this level of cooperation?

Rutgers seems to have forgotten that we are living in an age of protest and placing arbitrary limits on peaceful protest, particularly when it neither responds to, nor prepares for, any specific kind of public safety consideration, is remarkably tone deaf.

Rutgers should rescind this policy immediately.

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