Case Western Reserve Students Protest RNC Police Presence

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

Students enrolled in a university in Cleveland, Ohio became so traumatized by the idea that they might share their campus with armed police officers during the Republican National Convention that instead, the university has decided to essentially shut down for the week.

More than 300 of the students of Case Western Reserve University signed an online petition on Change.org in anger that the school officials had agreed to allow 1,900 police officers and National Guardsmen that would be at the school to maintain order during the RNC to stay in campus housing.  Among other things, the petition asked that “riot police” store their weapons off-campus in between their shifts, that they only be allowed in the residence halls, that they not be allowed to drink alcohol or take mind-altering drugs, and that they be subject to university rules concerning anti-discrimination, sexual harassment and the use of weapons, reports Emily Zanotti for Fox News.

Several students requested to be transferred to alternative housing for the week, saying the police made them “fear for their safety” after the shooting deaths of the two black men in Minnesota and Louisiana.

“I am scared and concerned for students of color, queer* and trans* students and all university community members at the mercy of an arbitrarily expanded police force without clear oversight or attachment to the community,” wrote one petitioner, Shannon Groll. “Please, protect CWRU as a safe space for all bodies.”

Chris Sheridan, a CWRU vice president, said that many of the black students at the school were concerned about the police presence due to the national climate, adding that many were uneasy about police officers with weapons being on campus.

As a result, administrators have chosen to close down most of the activity on campus next week, citing concerns that rioting at the RNC could enter their campus located five miles away.  Police officers will be hosted within the residence halls, but classes and other activities will be limited in response to the police-involved shootings and protests that have recently occurred throughout the nation.

When announcing the decision to students, faculty, and staff, the university noted that all schools had been asked to limit the number of people on campus in addition to the number of open buildings.  Professors have been asked to determine ways to have classes meet off-campus, possibly through online meetings or through meeting in another location.  In addition, the library will be shut down and the cafeteria will offer a limited menu, writes Stephanie Saul for The New York Times.

Law students and petition co-author Taru Taylor said many on campus felt that the university was considering the wishes of the policemen over the concerns of the students.

“The primary concern is the safety of the campus community,” Taylor said, citing instances of police misconduct. “Also, there’s a sense in which the university should be a scholarly environment, a sanctuary from the police state.”

Sheridan went on to say that CWRU will be paid to host the officers for the event, although it was not said how much money they were offered.  He added that fewer than 300 students live on campus for summer classes.