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    Wednesday, June 12, 2024

    New policy at UConn says quiet 24 hours a day, no tents through the end of the semester

    As University of Connecticut students continue to camp out in protest over the war in Gaza, university officials have doubled down on their policies.

    In an email sent out to students, faculty and staff, the university said that large-scale gatherings are permitted on campus. However, weapons, tents, tarps, encampments, generators, electrical cords, propane equipment, stoves, heaters, and open flames are not permitted. In addition, the email said that no gathering can interfere with university business, including “amplified sound” that is disruptive to classes, residence halls, or offices.

    Also beginning on Saturday, UConn said it will observe quiet hours that are in effect 24 hours a day until commencement. The university said that quiet hours have traditionally taken place during final exams week for many years.

    “Once again, larger-scale outdoor gatherings are permitted on our campuses provided they are peaceful; are held in accordance with University policy and practice; do not disrupt campus operations; and do not restrict access to a public space for any member of the University community, including University employees,” in an email sent from the university obtained by the Courant. “Should an outdoor gathering or its participants fail to observe these standards, the University will take appropriate action to address this.”

    But some students said that the email felt like a direct response to the encampment.

    “Speaking to members of the faculty that have been here for years, some decades, none of them have heard of this quote-on-quote traditional policy of 24/7 quiet hours during final weeks,” said Nell Srinath, a spokesperson for the pro-Palestine group UConn Divest. “That and being in a public location that is not obstructive of people’s academic duties. We were highly skeptical about the legitimacy of this rule and did see it as a direct response policy change to make what we’re doing harder here.”

    “In addition to putting in writing a ban on tents on university spaces, which we again see as a response to our encampment here which is in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Because there were instances where camping was allowed on University property before, such as at high-profile basketball games to get tickets as early as possible. In those instances it benefitted the University.”

    Srinath along with hundreds of other students have called on UConn to divest from weapons manufacturers that have aided Israel’s war with Hamas. The group, which set up an encampment between the school’s recreation center and School of Business last week, said that they will continue to camp out in protest until the university divests its assets. A couple dozen protestors remained camped out on Saturday, down from around 300 students gathered Thursday evening, according to Srinath.

    Protests over divestment, which have broke out at colleges campuses across the country, have also seen similar responses from police. One student at UConn was arrested on Thursday evening and several were detained. No other arrests have been made, according to Srinath.

    “Students were wholly peaceful and even protected each other from aggressive arrests from police,” Srinath said. “We understand that one student dislocated their shoulder and one was separated from their mobility aid. This is not how a quote-on-quote public safety office should treat students peacefully protesting against an ongoing genocide being financially supported by their university.”

    The Courant reached out to university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz for comment, but did not hear back.

    The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations put out a statement Saturday that expressed its solidarity with the UConn students and called on UConn to not use police to disperse protestors.

    “We urge the university administration and the Governor not to use the police to suppress this lawful demonstration,” said Farhan Memon, chair of CAIR-CT. “Institutions like UCONN should be beacons of free expression and dialogue. The use of militarized police to handle student protests is not only disproportionate but deeply concerning. It is crucial that these educational institutions remain spaces where civil liberties are respected and where students can engage in critical conversations without fear of reprisal,” CAIR-CT said in a press release.

    “CAIR-CT urges UConn and other educational institutions to protect the rights of their students, engage in open dialogue, listen to their concerns, and strive for peaceful solutions that reinforce the values of free expression and civil liberties.”

    UConn Divest said they currently have no plans for protests during commencement exercises in May.

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