Peace Students, Alumnae Continue Protests despite Police Presence, New Policy
[This article originally appeared in The Raleigh Public Record, a now-defunct, hyperlocal, online news source in September of 2011.]
Excerpt: Police on campus, heightened security and a new Speech, Expression and Assembly Policy create climate where “students fear being arrested, kicked out or losing scholarships,” according to senior Amber Karas.
Protest plans began after a press conference announcing that after more than 100 years as a female only institution, Peace would be going co-ed, but as Karas explained, “We’re not protesting the men, but the lies, the disrespect and lack of communication.”
The news caught alumna Beth Falkner by surprise because, “They never consulted alumni. I was with Townsley after the staff and major changes at a meet-the-President event and the only thing they discussed was the majors and how great Peace was doing. They said everything was in good shape and we had a bright future.” In the July 29 press conference, Townsley cited financial concerns and dwindling enrollment as deciding factors in the decision to admit men.
Despite pouring rain and high wind from the remnants of hurricane Irene, alumnus Lorna Dailey arrived as scheduled to help a new student on Move-In, one of Peace’s long standing traditions.
Dailey, who was married in the Peace Chapel and whose daughters attended Peace College, had signed up weeks back along with other alumna to help on August 26, so she was surprised when Julie Ricciardi, Peace’s vice president for engagement called the day before and left a message with her husband Ron saying not to come because she was not needed.
Lorna had committed to help one student in particular, so she tried to leave a message with Ricciardi, but her voicemail box was full. Then, she sent an e-mail to Jenny Peacock, Peace’s Associate Director of Admissions, to let her know she would arrive Saturday as planned.
Before she could get out of her car, she was met by two Peace college security staff, an off duty Raleigh Police officer and a plain clothes officer who informed her that “This is private property and you are trespassing.” When Lorna protested, a member of Peace security staff, Michael John, asked her to” leave before there was any trouble.”
A stunned and upset Dailey drove to nearby Seaboard shopping center to collect herself and call the student advising her of the situation. Only after the student intervened with campus officials was she allowed on campus, but she was closely monitored as she helped the student unpack. Later, Daley learned the William Peace University Board of Trustees had issued a Peace Demonstration Statement for Move-In Day. [Ed- href to attachment sent earlier]
Alumnus Elizabeth Watson’s police contact on Move-In day came before she arrived on campus. As she drove to Raleigh, Raleigh Police Officer Thomas Klein advised her Peace had a new Speech, Expression and Assembly policy. Klein asked Watson, who has assisted students and other alumnae plan protest activities, if such a policy existed when she attended Peace, but Peace’s 20011 student handbook does not cover the topic.
The new policy requires students to submit written, 24-hour notice for activities to be approved, but students received the new policy via e-mail on August 29. The first protest was scheduled for that very day.
Watson, who arranged permits for protests on the public sidewalk outside the main entrance on Peace Street states, “No students have been disciplined for taking part in the protests on the sidewalk.”
The fear of disciplinary action appears to have had a chilling effect on some students’ participation, however. Rachel House, a senior due to graduate in December and an active protestor stated she “does not feel personally intimidated,” but other students have shared that advisors have told them “not to go to the protest, not to skip class” and that teachers have said” I do not want to dissuade you, but you should probably not go to the protest.” Posts on the Preserve Peace Legacy Facebook site also mention student concerns and fears of disciplinary action if they participate in the protests.
Susan Murray is a concerned Peace parent whose daughter, Laura, has a scholarship and a job on campus. According to Murray, ‘This draconian speech and expression policy put out at the eleventh hour is very intimidating.” Her concerns led her to carefully examine Laura’s work contract and advise her to check with financial aid to ensure participating in the protests would not threaten her financial situation.
Meanwhile, the protests continue nightly with the largest event scheduled for August 10. President Emeritus David Frazier, who led Peace College from 1965 to 1988 planned to attend until his wife became ill. Instead he has issued a statement to be read at the protest. In an e-mail -mail sent September 7, he acknowledged that if was able to attend, “ I will be banned from campus, because all protesters are banned.”
Not all protests occur on sidewalks, however. In an earlier interview Frazier reports he has “talked to a number of people recently, six or eight 8 people, and I have confirmed from them that they are removing about $7.5 million from their estate plans – money that was going to come to Peace but now will not be going to Peace.”
A call for comment from the University was referred to MMI Public Relations, who are handling media requests related to the recent changes. MMI stated no additional comments would be made as it had already issued a press statement.