Demonstrators occupy chancellor’s office for nearly 25 hours


Brian Munoz

Jai Parham, a freshman studying theater from Chicago, talks about the similarities and differences between the Howard University demonstrations at their demonstration at SIU Friday, April 6, 2018, during an occupation of SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s office in Anthony Hall. The occupation followed a march through campus the previous day in protest of the proposed police academy at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Kitt Fresa, Brian Munoz , and Farrah Blaydes

Students and community members staged a sit-in after marching from the Communications Building to Anthony Hall yesterday, in protest of a proposed police academy at the university.

Protests came hours after SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno released a statement that he would be tabling the decision on the proposed addition of a police academy.

I continue to believe that SIU Carbondale can bring together the expertise of its faculty to create an innovative institute focused on training culturally competent law enforcement officers,” Montemagno said in a written statement. “However, I think the ultimate recommendation about whether we go forward should come from the faculty who would lead the delivery of the institute’s programs.”

Demonstrators demanded Montemagno release a written statement saying there will not be any form of a police training institution at SIU.

USG senator Zhi Hao “Eric” Tsang presented the formal request to Montemagno yesterday during the beginning hours of the sit-in.

“We, the people of the SIU community demand that the chancellor’s office release a statement today that there will be no police academy or public safety institute at SIUC and that all processes regarding its implementation will be halted immediately,” the statement read.

Police officers patrolled Anthony Hall and the surrounding buildings while demonstrators occupied the chancellor’s office overnight.

“We have a lot of food and drink donated by professors and other people who agree with what we’re doing and wanted to support us in some way,” Brynn Kosmic, a Carbondale community member and demonstrator said.

Anonymous professors donated food and coffee, according to SIU Student Trustee Sam Beard.  

Friday morning demonstrators hung up signs and banners outside of Anthony Hall with messages such as “no cop academy” and names of victims of police brutality written on cardstock.

Shortly after Montemagno greeted protesters and complimented them on their professionalism during the demonstrations.

“I want to let you know how proud I am of all of you – even though we don’t agree on everything, I want to let you know that you’ve comported yourself as professionals,” Montemagno said. “You were respectful, you were polite and you were able to provide a level of communication to express your ideas, that makes me very very proud of all of you.”

Montemagno told the demonstrates he was happy with how they are expressing themselves during protests.

“This is one of the reasons we fight for, we fought for in our nation – to have freedom, to be able to express our thoughts, and you’ve done it perfectly,” Montemagno said. “So I want to take your pictures, I want to tweet about how proud I am of all of you.”

Beard said they would take a picture with the chancellor under the condition he say on camera that there will not be a police academy at SIU.

Montemagno denied the request and said the decision ultimately would rest with the faculty of the proposed school.

“I can’t do that – that’s going to rest with the faculty and the faculty are going to ultimately make the decision about whether or not we can do that or not,” Montemagno said.

Montemagno and the demonstrators discussed on how the chancellor possesses the authority to deny the creation of a public safety institute.

“You don’t wield that authority lightly,” Montemagno said. “I would not wield that authority in the absence of having a dialogue first, to preempt a dialogue and a discussion is not the way to do things.”

The chancellor praised the demonstrators on the points that they brought up to him.  

“You’ve raised a number of points which are significant and those points have been communicated it will be part of the discussion,” Montemagno said. “I also believe that we have an opportunity if we do it right to provide a way of educating the next generation of police officers – officers that are culturally competent.”

Montemagno promised demonstrators that when issues on the proposed police academy are discussed or debated, there will be a seat for the students to provide their perspective.

The demonstrators vacated Anthony Hall early Friday afternoon.

Features editor Kitt Fresa can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @KittFresa.
Photography and Multimedia editor Brian Munoz can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @BrianMMunoz.
Staff reporter Farrah Blaydes can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at Farrah_Blaydes. 

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