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Stop attempts to silence University of Minnesota SDS

By University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society |
October 26, 2009
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Take action:

Contact the Student Union Activities Office and tell them that SDS should not face sanctions for their actions at Convocation.

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following call from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Minnesota.

To All Supporters of Students for a Democratic Society at the U of MN

Because of our action at Convocation '09 we are now facing sanctions against our SDS chapter. The sanctions that we are currently appealing would ensure that we would have NO rights as a student group – we could no longer reserve rooms on our campus, we couldn’t be part of the handful of functions open to student groups, and we can't apply for any grants.

We ask for all of our supporters and all supporters of free speech on our campuses to call and tell the University of Minnesota that SDS should not face sanctions for our actions at Convocation. The Student Union Activities office has placed sanctions against us saying that we stole the banners used in the action, we improperly used the space, and that we were disruptive to a closed university function. We question all of these findings.

First off the banners that we used were found, and were clearly NEVER going to be used by the university – they articulated outdated goals & campaigns and outdated fashion! Secondly, we believe that the building and event that we interrupted was in need of some perspective. The event is traditionally meant as a rallying point to make students blind to the excesses of the university administration. Our banner drop highlighted to students for only a few minutes the hypocrisy of an administration that is raising tuition while receiving free housing and enormous salaries.

Below you will find links to the media about the action and our formal appeal letter:

Our Formal Appeal:

Denny Olsen and Whomever it May Concern,

Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota have decided to appeal the 1-year probation request put forward by the Student Union and Activities Office on October 5th.

SDS is an organization that embraces the right to free speech; we are enthusiastic about a diversity of methods in which free speech is sought, including dropping banners during a university president's speech. If the market place of ideas is off limits for students or student groups on campus via the student conduct code, then it is our opinion that the student conduct code should be revised immediately.

Under the student conduct code, SDS was found in violation of theft from the university for the banners that were dropped at Convocation. The charge of theft indicates that a person who was at one time in possession of these items is currently missing them and has requested their property be returned. From what the SUA has indicated, there has been no person requesting the immediate return of these banners, therefore they are not being missed. Furthermore, this charge is a radical assumption that SDS did indeed steal these banners from someone, a charge that from the beginning SDS has denied. This was charged without proof or evidence from the SUA and SDS stands by our conviction that they were in fact found items.

SDS has also been charged with unauthorized use of university facilities. As a public university, SDS believes that no buildings should be shut down to persons who are either of the university community or who financially aid the university. This includes: students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, tax payers, etc. Furthermore, SDS recognizes that the current financial status of our university is a crisis situation. To shutdown students from organizing the university community into action should be an embarrassment to the university.

Finally, SDS is being charged of engaging in disruptive behavior at convocation. SDS stands firm in recognizing a diversity of tactics when engaging the student body and sees alternative tactics as necessary in pursuing our campaign. A university that claims to adhere to a free speech policy should similarly recognize the diverse ways in which free speech is expressed.

SDS demands the right to eligibility as a recognized student group on campus. Limiting the right to speech on campus is a dangerous thing and should be seen as detrimental not only to the university, but also to the university community at large (students, faculty, staff). Our university should embrace radical thought and action, rather than limiting student groups who do not necessarily fall in line with the university's politics.

Signed,

Members of the University of Minnesota Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society

(UMN SDS)

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