Graduation day is a day college students strive for. With all the hard work, time and effort they put in, to be able to walk across the stage gives one a sense of accomplishment. Whether it be a Bachelor's, Master's or PhD., you know that you've accomplished something.
Last week, now-former University of Chicago student body President Tyler Kissinger faced possible expulsion for his actions when dealing with an on-campus protest last month. On the day before he was set to graduate.
Kissinger was being charged with helping to create an "unsafe situation in the building" after he opened a locked door in a building that includes the president's office and allowed around 30 protesters to have a sit-in.
The public policy major faced a faculty disciplinary committee on June 10th, as he plead his case to receive disciplinary probation instead of the possibility of expulsion. While Kissinger didn't disclose what was exactly said in the hearing, the committee decided to give him only probation, therefore allowing him to graduate with his classmates Saturday.
"It was a relief. My parents arrived (from North Carolina) about five minutes before I went up and spoke to the disciplinary committee,'' Kissinger said to the Chicago Tribune. "I will be the first person in my family with the ability to walk across the stage and receive my diploma and I'm excited that I will get that opportunity."
What's great to see is a young man who feels so strongly behind what he does, says he would do the same thing again if it happened again.
"I regret that I had to make that sort of decision in the first place. I don't think that students or faculty or staff should have inhibited access (to administrators) like that. I don't know that our administrative buildings should be locked down like a military," he added to the Tribune.
The University of Chicago prides itself on its free expression policy, but yet as we've seen with Mr. Kissinger's case, as well as protests during the Vietnam War, the school is very tough on demonstrators.
What is it that Mr. Kissinger and the 30+ protesters from the IIRON Student Network were protesting? Let's check it out:
1.) Asking the school to go away from fossil fuels to set a precedent for a sustainable and ethical future.
2.) Pay its workers a living wage of $15 per hour and guarantee jobs and affordable health insurance for dining hall workers in the ongoing food service provider transition from Aramark to Bon Appetit. The University must provide a living wage of $15 per hour to ensure that both student and non-student workers are being compensated adequately for their time and that neither they nor their families are adversely affected by their income.
3.) End the UCPD’s racist and opaque policing practices. As a first step towards increased community control over the UCPD, The University must submit the UCPD to existing standards of transparency currently applicable to public police forces, and do so in a legally binding manner.
4.) Expand and revitalize Student Disability Services with increased financial support. Student Disability Services must be utterly revamped into an office that can actually provide the necessary resources and accommodations for disabled students to feel accepted and cared for on campus and not penalized for their disability.
What may be the worst of all is that according to the ISN, campus leaders had refused to meet with them to discuss these issues. Whether they've met in the past isn't clear but it's unfortunate that a school with such a great reputation, known for being one of the best in the world, seems to not be interested in listening to its students. Or at least hearing what they have to say.
The university got one thing right in this case...they allowed Tyler Kissinger to graduate. Here's to hoping he can continue leading the charge for change.