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UT president: It wasn't a protest. It was criminal trespassing.

By University of Texas at Austin President Jay Hartzell:

There is a long, proud history of protest at the University of Texas at Austin. I am grateful to work at a university where students, faculty and staff care deeply enough about community, national and world events to rally around those causes.

Demonstrations play a role on campuses such as ours. A university, after all, encourages students to discover and develop points of view, and to express them. These activities challenge the ways we think and feed a campus’ dynamic atmosphere. UT students have held dozens of peaceful protests, largely without incident, throughout this academic year.

We also have a responsibility to keep the campus and its people safe, and to allow our teaching and research to continue. Our rules provide structure for this responsibility and set up conditions for the co-existence of protests, safety and education. We are constantly reviewing those rules, improving on them, and making sure they protect everyone — those who are protesting and those who are learning, working or visiting campus. These rules also protect free speech, and enforcing them uniformly and consistently keeps us from discriminating against any particular point of view.

For decades, groups with an incredible array of differing views have shared a respect for our rules. These students, though energized by a conflict or cause, have nevertheless worked with us and found permissible ways to express themselves without putting others at risk.

Regrettably, protesters, including many not affiliated with UT, have refused in recent weeks to accept these rules and processes. It pains me deeply that even though the organizers declared their intent to break our rules, they rebuffed numerous attempts by our Office of the Dean of Students to meet beforehand. The on-campus encampments they said they would establish, and then did, were clearly prohibited by our rules, including a prohibition against camping that became effective in 2012. They also threatened to effectively disrupt the education of more than 52,000 students and to set an alarming precedent for anyone seeking to establish encampments in the future. Demonstrators were repeatedly urged, then ordered, to take down the encampments and disperse.

At every step, they refused. At that point, regardless of anyone’s opinion, this was no longer a traditional assembly or protest. By the plain language of our rules, it was criminal trespassing.

Read the rest of the article in the Houston Chronicle.