Student-Led Protests Spring Up at the University of Maryland

By Alex Eng-Nguyen
For Unwind magazine

Student-led protests have marked the start of the spring semester at the University of Maryland. From the Black Lives Matter movement to, in light of the recent executive order put forth by President Trump, immigration and the travel ban, student leaders have been quick to take a stand for these issues by organizing on-campus protests.

Sophomore environmental science and policy major Miranda Mlilo is the president of Students for Justice in Palestine and was a main organizer for one of the protests at the University after the travel ban was enacted. Though the movement was initially inspired by the detainment of Aida Mohammadi, a UMD student that was kept at Washington Dulles International Airport shortly after President Trump’s executive order took place, Mlilo said, “[Our] motive was to show solidarity with immigrants.”

The on-campus event, which was held on Feb. 1, resulted in the attendance of approximately 400 people.

“We did call on President Loh to make [the university] a sanctuary campus,” Mlilo said.

University President Wallace Loh had previously noted in a campus statement on Jan. 26, “declaring UMD a ‘sanctuary campus’ is unnecessary, since we already provide all the protections and support allowed under the law.”

Despite this, the Student Government Association ultimately passed a motion last month urging this university’s administration to officially declare this University a sanctuary campus.

Students are not the only ones who have noted the importance of speaking out on current events. Faculty and staff have also expressed the same sentiment.

Merrilee Cox, an adjunct professor for the Philip Merrill College of Journalism said, “As a teacher, I have mixed feelings about students missing class [to attend events]. On the other hand, I absolutely admire and respect that students want to be active.” She further stated that she admires students’ “willingness to step out and speak out.”

They key: protests should have a goal.

“The number one importance is that people feel like they’re doing something,” Hannah Wegmann, a French PhD student and French TA coordinator, said.

She added protesting is “important because it promotes civic engagement.”

Protests create an important dialogue, helping to uphold the rights and principles this nation was built on.

“I think any protests, regardless of the issue, are any expression of people’s Constitutional rights under our democracy,” Stella Rouse, an associate professor within the Department of Government and Politics, stated in an email. “[Protesting] fits well [into the context of teaching material] as we teach the tenants of the Constitution and the importance of free speech to the vitality of our democracy.”

Recent events have encouraged students and faculty at this university to unite and speak out to preserve their rights and voice their concerns.

Amanpreet Kaur participated in a walkout last semester shortly after President Trump had won the election.CfAPkxIW8AAaqI9.jpg.optimal

“I think it’s important to be involved in on-campus protest events to show your support as an ally to those who may feel unsafe in these times,” Kaur, a junior public policy major, said. “We are all peers and it is important to show up when the matter is about their safety and security.”

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