University leadership condemns escalation of Garland sit-in

By RACHEL JUIENG | May 4, 2019

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FILE PHOTO Students and community members began the sit-in at Garland Hall on April 3.

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger and Vice President for Human Resources Heidi Conway sent a University-wide email addressing the eight student protesters who chained themselves to stairwells in Garland Hall at around 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 2. 

Student and community members began the Garland sit-in on April 3 to protest the planned private police force, the bill for which Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed into law on April 18, and the University’s contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Yesterday afternoon, the protesters dramatically escalated this situation by blocking ingress to and egress from the building, harassing staff and security officers, chaining the doors of the building closed, and covering security cameras. This escalation interrupted exams for students with disabilities, prevented student workers from being paid, and significantly disrupted financial aid and other vital student services,” they wrote. “These actions mean that they are now in contravention not only of university policies, but of state and municipal laws and ordinances as well.”

In a recent escalation of tactics, protesters have blocked passage through the building, chained the doors shut and covered security cameras. As a result, students were unable to pick up checks at Student Employment Services or access Student Disability Services (SDS).

Students using SDS for extra exam time would usually take their exams in Garland Hall. Because of the occupation, SDS has relocated to the Center for Health Education and Wellness lounge in Alumni Memorial Residence II, but will still provide testing accommodations. 

The administration is attempting to move key student services elsewhere while the sit-in is ongoing. A temporary Student Services Center has been set up in the Wyman Park Building to include staff from the offices of International Services, the Registrar, Student Accounts, Student Employment Services and Undergraduate Research.

Shollenberger and Conway stated that the protesters’ blockage of student services was in contravention of state and municipal laws, as well as fire ordinances. In response, the JHU Garland Occupation issued a statement explaining the escalation. 

“We are also extremely sensitive to the fact that people with disabilities are more likely to be victims of police brutality by ICE or a potential JHPD. Therefore, we hope that you will support our occupation of Garland Hall,” the statement reads. 

In another school-wide email sent on Friday at around 2 a.m., University President Ronald J. Daniels expressed his willingness to meet for discussion with members of the JHU Garland Occupation, provided that they evacuate the building and adhere to the University’s code of conduct. Protesters have communicated their desire for a meeting with Daniels since the beginning of the sit-in on April 3. 

“As I have frequently said, to get a meeting with me, students need not make an occupation, only an appointment. My willingness to meet and to have a constructive discussion is firm and unequivocal. We can meet as soon as this weekend if that is helpful for students in advance of final exams,” he wrote. “But before we meet, the students must remove their belongings from Garland, vacate the building, and bring their protest activities back in line with legal requirements and university guidelines.”

The JHU Garland Occupation released a media statement in response to Daniels’ email at around 8 p.m. on May 4. In it, the protesters allege that the administration called the emergency contacts of the undergraduates involved in the in the sit in and installed cameras around the outside of Garland Hall to monitor activity. It restates the original three demands and adds another demand. 

“We demand that you negotiate now and that amnesty for all participants or visitors of the space is assured,“ it reads. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Student Government Association Executive President AJ Tsang wrote that he believes that Hopkins needs an inclusive and trusted platform for faculty, students and administrators to discuss the policy decisions of the University. He also believes that a frank discussion between University leadership and student protesters could be possible at this time. 

“Each side seems concerned that the other will drown it out or be disingenuous; but as someone who personally knows both students at and administrators monitoring the sit-in, I can personally say that... everyone believes they’re doing what’s best for Hopkins,” he wrote.

Daniels followed up his Friday email with an email sent at about 7:30 p.m. on May 5. In the email, Daniels proposed a live-streamed meeting at FastForward U for May 6 at 9:30 a.m. and invited any student protesters who have left or are willing to leave the occupation. No student protesters attended the meeting. 

“You are welcome to bring members of the student News-Letter with you, and we are happy to support transparency by broadcasting the meeting through university live stream. The meeting can accommodate 30 to 35 students. We would request RSVP to Studentaffairs@jhu.edu. We look forward to having a productive conversation,” the email reads. 

The protesters responded to Daniels’ email at around 5 p.m. on May 6. They explained that the short notice did not allow them sufficient time to respond as a group and requested a 48-hour notice for any invitations to meet. 

The protesters also requested academic, professional and legal amnesty for anyone associated with or involved in the sit in; a live transmission of the meeting accessible afterward; a non-Hopkins affiliated, mutually agreed-upon mediator; and a University-wide email announcing the start of negotiations sent by the administration to the Hopkins community as well as the press.

In the email, the protesters indicated that they will continue to occupy the building if negotiations do not prove successful. 

“Additionally, we request your assurance that our delegation will be permitted to return to the occupation at the conclusion of the meeting and will not be arrested should negotiations present challenges. Furthermore, we request assurance that individuals who remain at Garland Hall during the meeting will not be confronted by law enforcement,” it reads. 

Freshman Amal Hayat believes that the protesters’ escalation tactics may not ultimately help the causes they are advocating. 

“I’m not a big fan of protests, period. When they do things like barge into the alumni breakfast, it makes their argument seem childish,” she said. “It’s not productive for anyone.”

On the other hand, sophomore Sam Mollin supported these tactics in an email to The News-Letter, noting concerns raised by administrators. 

“In light of the recent escalation, I remain committed to the pro-sit-in resolution I wrote and passed a few weeks ago,” he said. “While some of the temporary consequences outlined in the letter are unfortunate, the fault lies on President Daniels for pushing through a deeply unpopular private police force for two years.”

University administrators did not respond by the time of publication. Members of the JHU Garland Occupation declined to comment. 

Sophia Lipkin contributed reporting. Rudy Malcom has written an Opinions piece on the sit-in. He did not contribute writing or reporting for this piece. 

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