What began as a student rally that started outside of Thompson Library at about 3:30 p.m. turned into a sit-in in front of University President Michael Drake’s office Wednesday evening.
Speakers inside Bricker Hall talked about being “silenced” by the administration when trying to make changes through their organizations.
Student organizations involved in the sit-in included Real Food OSU, United Students Against Sweatshops, Still We Rise, OSU Coalition for Black Lives and the Committee for Justice in Palestine. The organizations rallied behind the hashtag #ReclaimOSU on Twitter.
Real Food OSU and OSU Divest said they want OSU to provide full access to the annual budget and a financial adviser to detail exactly where those funds are being spent and what corporations OSU is supporting.
The coalition’s second demand is that the administration agrees to one of the three proposed campaigns — Real Food OSU, United Students Against Sweatshops or OSU Divest — as a sign of good faith to continue working with the coalition, as stated in its press release.
“Several campaigns have been launched this year, and Real Food has been fighting for their campaign the last two years to get ethical sourcing for food on campus,” said Justice Harley, a first-year in African-American and African studies who was participating and involved in the sit-in. “These campaigns have been repeatedly denied by administration and (Undergraduate Student Government). Some students and community members feel they don’t have a voice on campus and don’t have a say in where the tuition money goes or what the university does with that money.”
The university said in a statement that the group’s occupation of Bricker Hall was illegal, as the building closes at 5:30 p.m., adding that participants had “repeated discussions and warnings.”
“The methods employed by this group were outside the scope of permitted practices. We actively encourage dialogue with students on a wide variety of issues,” the statement read. “We remain committed to all parties interested in meaningful discourse and in contributing to the excellence of our university. As a society and as a university, we have rules that are in place to protect the very freedoms these individuals were exercising, and these protections and rights also extend to our staff as they work on the important business of the university.”
At the student rally at Thompson Library, several students gathered to speak out regarding issues of transparency and giving a voice to those who feel silenced. Three speakers used the time to inform rally attendees about their organizations about the demands outlined in the open letter.
Police denied any outside access after the building closed at 5:30 p.m. and protesters in the building were not allowed to open the doors or receive food from those outside. A group of about 25 protesters gathered outside the south doors and began chanting.
At 8 p.m. the OSU Police Twitter account tweeted that “accommodations (have been) made for #ReclaimOSU students already inside to stay overnight” and that they “can leave at any time.”
Despite that tweet, some students claimed they were threatened with expulsion or removal by force.
However, Shell Sindle, a third-year in anthropology and criminology and the protest’s organizer, said, “We refuse to leave until our demands are met and are prepared to stay in the building for as long as it takes.”
“OSU Divest wants to divest from companies like Caterpillar, G4S and HP,” Sindle said. “Being able to see where the money is going would help us be able to build our campaigns against that.”
Pranav Jani, an associate professor of English, spoke to the protesters inside of Bricker Hall, where he encouraged students to exercise their right to free speech.
“I think we either have free speech or we don’t,” Jani said. “If we can’t be a part of a campus community coming out like this, not doing anything wrong and not being violent to anyone, if we can’t do that, what do we have here? The movement is all about nonviolence and taking a stand to bring people together.”
At midnight, sit-in participants had gathered at the Bricker Hall doors facing the Oval, chanting, “We’ll be back.”
Shortly thereafter, students began breaking down tents and dispersing.
Michael Huson contributed to this article.
Update April 7: This story was updated at 12:50 a.m. on April 7, 2016.