Protesters take stage ahead of president Schill's State of the University address
EUGENE, Ore. - Students stormed the stage with a megaphone and sign ahead of University of Oregon President Michael Schill's State of the University address on Friday.
Schill never took the stage. Instead, he released a statement:
Today, I had planned to share with the campus community some wonderful news about investments in three new academic programs, support for student success programming at the soon-to-be-built Black Cultural Center and nine new endowed faculty chair positions for our schools and colleges. We are able to make these investments thanks to an incredibly generous $50 million dollar gift. Unfortunately, I was not able to tell you my good news in person, because my speech was disrupted by a small group of protesters.
Tobin Klinger, with the University, said officials he had seen social media posts and posters suggesting a protest might be planned. The president recorded his speech in advance as a contingency plan, Klinger said.
The protesters were seated in the crowd. Before the presentation began, they stood up and took the stage, chanting, "nothing about us without us!"
Other people in the crowd waiting for the president's speech got up and filed out of the room.
Student protesters said they had a variety of grievances, from "fascist" propaganda found on campus to recent tuition increases.
Protest leader Charlie Landeros is a fourth year student. He said he served in the military before coming to the UO. Following the recent 6.5 percent hike in tuition, Landeros said he is being "priced" out of the university:
"Without the G.I. bill, which I got fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, I could not be here."
Some students say the unrest has been brewing on campus since the university announced cuts to programs and faculty.
"I think this is something that should happen," said UO senior Bianca Sandoval. "This is kind of like a snowballing thing of frustration for all the students."
Most of all, students say they just wanted to be heard.
"I cannot think of any valid reason that someone who calls himself a president would not listen to the outrage of their constituents," Landeros said.
Klinger called the situation "unfortunate." He said President Schill supports free speech, and planned to applaud free speech on campus during his address.
"It's unfortunate that it gets to the point where it actually drowns out the speech of others, and makes it where we can't actually conduct business of the university," Klinger said.
University officials will review whether the protest constitutes a breach of the student code of conduct.