Missouri Student Protestors Demanded Generators, a Fire Pit

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 2:19 pm, April 17, 2016

Just days after protesting students defenestrated the University of Missouri’s president and chancellor late last year, interim leadership issued a statement lauding “our brave students who sacrificed their own needs to do the work that should have been done long before they joined our community.”

But when these “brave students” camped out on Mizzou’s Traditions Plaza in solidarity with a grad student on a hunger strike, they demanded special treatment from the university to make their stay as comfortable as possible, according to new email correspondence reviewed exclusively by Heat Street and National Review.

 “The students tenting/demonstrating are asking for a generator for their campsite,” wrote Chief Diversity Officer Noor Azizan-Gardner on the morning of Nov. 6, four days into Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike. “Is there any way that we can help with this? Let me know if this is even possible.”

“We got them power this morning,” wrote Gary Ward, the vice chancellor for operations and chief operating officer at MU, two minutes later.

Less than four hours later, the student protestors had another complaint.

“I just heard from the students that they have one power strip with 8 outlets on it and it’s connected to one of the power sources on the quad,” writes Azizan-Gardner, copying Chancellor Bowen Loftin, in addition to Ward. “The students are concerned that they may trip the circuitry if they overload it. So, they have texted me that they need to have more power outlets and/or a small generator so that they can have heat and refrigeration this weekend. Please let me know how we can provide this for them.”

Ward responded less than enthusiastically: “That is all we have and I had folks come in first thing to get that. I am very concerned with providing a gas generator for safety concerns. That also requires us to have a person come in and keep them in gas. I very much appreciate our students and their right to protest but they are right now killing grass and putting stakes in the ground where we have underground sprinkler system. No other group or individual have been allowed to set up home on our quad. Typically when a tent request comes in the request needs a [procurement code] to pay for all the associated expenses. I request they move off our quad that many of our folks have worked very hard to make enjoyable for the entire university community. It really was not designed for a campsite.”

The administration then briefly deliberated whether a resolution could be reached with the protestors soon. After one notes the enormous national news coverage, Chancellor Loftin recommends “that we handle power by providing a generator of our own or access to more power from campus.”

“Will do,” Ward responds.

About an hour later, Ward writes back: “The generator is set up. They want a fire pit.”

Ward says he denied that request, telling protestors they’d need to go through a permitting process. It’s unclear whether the administration eventually granted their request. Ward also wrote, “We have non students who have joined on the site.”

The protestors’ demands for comfort are in stark contrast with their public rhetoric to the media.  “I wanted to be there to let [Butler, the student on a hunger strike] know that he doesn’t have to go through this alone,” said DeShaunya Ware, one of the students camping out. “So while my body may not be able to go on a hunger strike, I’m committed to change just as he is.”

(That is, as long as the cell phones can stay charged.)

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum and the Steamboat Institute.

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