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Victory for U of MN SDS in battle against political repression on campus

Commentary by Chris Getowicz |
May 16, 2014
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Minneapolis, MN - Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Minnesota won a important victory this week, successfully defending itself from administrative sanctions aimed at SDS for its central role in organizing protests at Condoleezza Rice’s April 17 ‘distinguished lecturer’ speaking event.

SDS urged faculty and community groups to demand the university drop the charges, and after a barrage of phone calls, letters and emails, the administration was forced to do so.

Many of the charges leveled at SDS were alleged ‘violations’ of policies designed to silence free-speech on campus by outlawing the basic necessities of any large protest. As one example, the use of amplified sound on campus is only permissible within a narrow one-hour window on weekdays, and even then only with the appropriate permit, which can take over a month to pass through the university bureaucracy for approval. For going on a march at the end of a rally, protesters can be found in violation of moving from an approved protest area or of being otherwise disruptive to the campus environment. These policies are an attempt to chill student activism.

The charges brought against SDS for organizing a protest are outrageous, given that top university administration have consistently defended Rice’s scheduled speaking event, and $150,000 speaker fee, on the grounds of protecting her “free speech.”

Another important activist group on Minnesota’s campus, Whose Diversity?, is currently being targeted for similar repression. Whose Diversity? is accused of violations to the Student Code of Conduct for protesting university administrators at a public relations event that promoted an artificial image of ‘diversity’ at the University. Whose Diversity? demands substantive, not superficial, diversity, and for articulating this at a public event, ten organizers were charged with being “disruptive” and “failing to comply” with university officials. The punishment for speaking out against university administrators could range from a warning to expulsion and the revocation of degrees

Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota continues to stand with Whose Diversity? and recognizes their struggle as a struggle of all students for justice, equity and inclusion on campus. The collective efforts of student struggles on campus are united in fighting the repression of administration and recognize a common goal to defend the right to dissent on campus. It is in solidarity that SDS continues to struggle for justice with Whose Diversity? and calls upon the community to engage with and support the fight for equity and inclusion on campus. SDS is asking that its supporters, who were so vital in its successful fight against university repression, now give their full support to the Whose Diversity? organizers who are facing repression.

SDS has sent its thanks its faculty and community supporters who stood with it in fighting against administration repression. Matt Boynton, a University of Minnesota SDS member, said, "More than anything else, we want to recognize this as a major victory and to thank everyone who supported us. We would not have won without the support of faculty, staff and community members. We hope Whose Diversity? organizers will be cleared of their charges and we can all share a victory very soon."

The SDS victory against repression on campus is a major one that will be celebrated as the group carries its work forward to the SDS National Convention, which is being held at the University of Minnesota next fall.