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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Student protests need respect from administration

Published: December 4, 2014
Section: Editorials

Dean of Students Jamele Adams sent an email to the Brandeis community on Thursday morning, Dec. 4, explaining the reasoning behind the administration’s decision to take down the signs placed around campus this past weekend in support of the national “Black Lives Matter” campaign. Dean Adams cited the lack of any identifying student organization associated with the signs as the reason for their removal. These messages appeared on campus following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, MO, police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. Following the removal of the signs, Dean Adams reported that a group of students then approached him stating they were upset with this decision.

The issue lies not just in the administration’s decision to remove the signs themselves, but also in the fact that policies on hanging signs and exhibiting protest materials around campus has never been explicitly mentioned prior to this incident. There has been no protocol set in place for students who wish to post such signs peacefully. While it is nice to see a member of the administration not only take responsibility for an action that obviously upset the student body, but also apologize for it, there has definitely been a miscommunication between the administration and the student body about the current policies regarding signage. Signs and other displays are one of the most prevalent media through which students protest and make their voices heard. As a very efficient and effective way to reach a majority of the community, signs often serve as the initial medium by which students are exposed to movements and protests.

Additionally, movements such as this one (which fights that black lives do matter) initiate spontaneously. To create a group or club to support it is too tedious of a task, one that only inhibits the power of the movement. Even to find a currently established club that could sponsor the movement and then approach the administration for approval could detract too much from the spirit of the campaign. While we sympathize with the hard decision that administration had to make, the signs were removed so quickly that it seems that students were never given a chance to defend their placement. We ask that the policy on signs be more clear and consistent so that students’ hard work doesn’t feel like it is in vain.

There was no clear reason for the administration to assume that the signs placed around campus were put there by outside groups rather than students. This semester especially, between the signs regarding sexual assault and the art around campus outlining the bodies of dead black people in chalk, students have chosen to utilize visual displays like signs to protest for their rights.