U. of C. Rethinks Protest Policy After Criticism of Campus Police

By Sam Cholke on May 6, 2013 9:01am | Updated on May 6, 2013 3:37pm

 Toussaint Lossier (l.) was arrested Jan. 27 for participating in a sit-in at the University of Chicago's Center for Care and Discovery to demand a new trauma center for the South Side.
Toussaint Lossier (l.) was arrested Jan. 27 for participating in a sit-in at the University of Chicago's Center for Care and Discovery to demand a new trauma center for the South Side.
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DNAInfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago will hold an open forum on May 13 on civil disobedience on campus after a series of protests went awry earlier this year.

University Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum and a committee of seven professors will hold the first public meeting on May 13 to review university policies on civil disobedience in the wake of questionable actions by U. of C. Police at two protests on campus.

The meeting at 5 p.m. at Swift Hall, 1058 E. 58th St., will address whether protests in research and medical facilities should be treated differently and how police, administrators and protesters should communicate during an action on campus.

The public is invited to comment on the type of response community members expect from the university at protests and how civil disobedience is handled at other institutions.

“The environment of free expression on our campus, including the right to legitimate protest, is essential to our values and the nature of the university,” university President Robert Zimmer said on March 3 when the formation of the committee was announced.

“It is incumbent upon all of us who are part of this extraordinary university community, and very specifically incumbent upon the president and provost, to protect these values and our legacy of commitment to free expression, discourse and inquiry,” Zimmer said.

In late fall, the committee will release a report based on the comments and an internal investigation of two incidents on campus.

On Jan. 27 at the Center for Care and Discovery, university police shoved protesters rallying for a South Side trauma center to the ground using batons and arrested four. The charges against the four protesters were later dropped.

On Feb. 23 during another trauma center protest on campus, a university detective posed as a protester to videotape and gather information about participants. The officer went undercover without approval from Chief of Police Marlon Lynch.

“President [Robert] Zimmer and I view the behavior as described to be antithetical to the university’s values, and we will not tolerate it,” Rosenbaum said in a letter to faculty after the second incident. “The university will investigate this expeditiously and take immediate steps to ensure that it is not repeated, including an external review of this incident and any related implications.”

Patricia Brown Holmes, a partner in the Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin and a former Cook County circuit judge, was hired to investigate both incidents. Holmes has not released the results of her investigation.

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