EDITORIAL: At first glance, DACA protest seems to violate U. policy
Activists are allowed to hold planned marches despite traffic disruption
, members of multiple University-affiliated groups took to the streets of New Brunswick to march in support of a “clean” Dream Act for undocumented students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients that does not criminalize communities and separate families. The activists marched on the street from the Brower Commons steps all the way to the Douglass Student Center, holding banners that said things like, “#HERETOSTAY” and “NODREAMDEFERRED.” Considering the fact that this demonstration took place around rush hour, it resulted in a certain degree of traffic delays — which were likely frustrating to some. As with any demonstration, the point these protesters were making was meant to be heard, and as we have seen throughout history, being heard often times entails making somewhat of a ruckus. Regardless of if these protesters were in the right or wrong, what is not clear at first glance is if their march was in accordance with University policy.
As of April 6, 2017, Rutgers revised and increased the specificity of its protest policy to ensure its ability to keep order with regard to demonstrations. There are specific criteria that demonstrators must follow with regard to protests, including notifying the administration beforehand. University Policy outlines the difference between disruption and expression on campus, and defines disruption as, “... conduct by any person that intentionally or recklessly obstructs, impairs or interferes with: (1) teaching, studying or administration of the University, including the clinical mission of RBHS, (2) the authorized and other permissible use of University facilities and (3) the rights and privileges of other members of the University community to engage in educational pursuits.” Additional points are laid out to specify examples of unacceptable disruption, where it is stated that activists are not permitted to “obstruct vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian or other traffic.” With that in mind, and without a deeper look into the University’s policies on demonstrations, it looks as if the march held on Monday was contrary to the rules put in place — which would mean that the University is blatantly neglecting to enforce its own policy.
To some groups on campus, it looks as if the University is taking sides by not intervening in Monday’s protest, but those groups would be wrong. The DACA supporters no doubt inconvenienced many drivers during their march, but it is clear that their doing so was planned — which changes things. Before the demonstration, members of the community got an alert that traffic would be delayed as a result of it, so we know this march was not spontaneous. In section 5 of the for free expression on campus, it is indirectly stated that though there are designated areas for demonstrations, those areas are not set in stone, and with proper planning and forewarning marches on campus are permissible, despite the fact that they may disrupt traffic — this is assumed because marches inherently disrupt traffic.
The same seems to have happened on , when members of Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Rutgers community marched on campus in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 without backlash or ramifications from the University. They too planned their march with the school — this is obvious because considering their seemingly bad blood with the administration, it would be absurd to let them get away with breaking the rules in such a profound way.
Before jumping to conclusions about whether a group broke the University’s policies on freedom of expression, one must actually come to know those policies. It is very reasonable to say that a spontaneous demonstration that disrupts traffic is unacceptable, and many would agree. But planned marches are clearly allowed, and as previously mentioned, sometimes it takes a bit of frustration on the side of the masses to get one’s point across. Luckily, all groups that wish to demonstrate their views in the same way that those on Monday did have that right — as long as they plan it first.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article which read, “In the for free expression on campus, it is stated that though there are designated areas for demonstrations, those areas are not set in stone, and with proper planning and forewarning marches on campus are permissible, despite the fact that they may disrupt traffic” has been updated to specify where the aforementioned statement, which is paraphrased, is located.
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