Police Prevent UVA Students from Attending Public Board Meeting
Nov 9, 2012 10:10 AM EST
Almost 20 police officers stood outside the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting Thursday to keep a group of students from entering the building, even though it was a public meeting.
A student group calling themselves "Hoos University" wanted in the meeting at the Harrison Institute to share their concerns with the board of visitors. They say the university has not been transparent about why President Teresa Sullivan was fired, and then later reinstated. The group says it's time for some answers.
Dozens of students spent Thursday afternoon trying to make their way into the board of visitors public meeting. They waited outside of the Harrison Institute to present a letter to Rector Helen Dragas, requesting her resignation.
"While we think that Teresa Sullivan's reinstatement was a tremendous victory, the root causes that led to her forced resignation have still not been addressed," said protester Laura Goldblatt.
Goldblatt says the group is pushing for more democratic and open governance at UVA. Their letter indicated three objectives: transparency, reform and accountability.
The group says a member called to confirm the meeting was open to the public starting at 12:30 Thursday afternoon. A university official initially said yes, but when the students got to the door of the building, police officers were blocking the entrance and board members wouldn't let them in.
UVA officials told students there were not enough seats for them to attend the meeting. Students offered to stand, but officials told them that was not allowed. After the student group waited in the Harrison Institute lobby for about 20 minutes, six students were allowed into the meeting because there were six open seats.
Protester Christopher Michael said, "We heard that they were accepting public comments and we said, 'Oh let's do that, they will be great.' We showed up and we said 'Hey can we go inside your meeting, and they said no.'"
Students spent an hour asking officials why they were not allowed in the public meeting, but got no answer. Associate Dean of Students Francis Laushway read students a written statement saying they could be expelled from the university if they did not leave the lobby of the building.
Section 2.36 of the UVA Board of Visitors manual states that meeting held in open session must be open to the public.