President’s Wing occupied by protestors

Approximately 25 protestors worked their way past locked doors into the President’s Wings of the Waterman building on Friday.

Members of Students Against War (S.A.W.), who are protesting for University divestment from war profiteers, staged a brief rally in front of the Royal Tyler Theater just past 1 p.m. Friday afternoon. They then moved into the Waterman building to stage a sit-in.

As a result, UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel promised to meet with leaders of S.A.W. next week.

Secretary Darlene Nelligan bolt-locked the double glass doors, which led to the President’s Wing before the students were able to gain access, so they began their sit-in in the hallway just outside.

In 2006, Nelligan received a Certificate of Recognition from UVM Police Services for similar action preventing demonstrators from gaining entrance to the President’s Wing.

“When faced with an early morning occupation of the wing by student protestors, she simply closed the door and locked the dead bolt. Problem solved,” according to the Police Services’ Web site.

While the protestors had been repeatedly told before that Fogel was out at a meeting, one member of the group reported seeing him inside the wing just minutes before.

An unidentified member of S.A.W., speaking through a megaphone, told those within the wing “we know you’re in there, Fogel, and we know you’re lying.”

The words prompted Nelligan to unlock the doors and open them briefly to tell the students they were acting disÂrespectfully, and said, “Don’t be rude.”

The group seized the opportunity to gain access to the wing.

When Nelligan opened the unlocked doors, an unidentified male student moved quickly toward her in what appeared to be an attempt to move by her into the wing.

Nelligan pushed him back and tried to close the door, but the student used his body to keep it open.

He repeatedly claimed that she had attacked him unprovoked, saying, “You assaulted me, you assaulted me.”

Nelligan apologized but maintained that he had attempted to gain access to the wing and she had simply tried to stop him, adding that Fogel was unavailable to speak with the students.

As Nelligan was speaking, five protestors slipped behind her into the wing. When she became aware of the five, she moved out of the doorway and followed them down the hallway, at which point many of the protesters rose and walked through the open door. In all, about 25 students entered.

As the students began to settle in, the inhabitants of the offices along the hall began to close their doors. The student wielding the megaphone projected through one office door, asking, “Why did you shut your door? We are non-violent student protestors, we will not hurt you.”

The sit-in inside the President’s Wing began just before 2:00 p.m. Police Services came shortly after and stood at the main doors, preventing any additional access.

President Fogel entered the hall after Police Services had arrived and spoke with the students for about 10 minutes.

“I promised to meet with them next week,” said Fogel afterward, “I promised to support their groups.” He then left the building, adding, “Enjoy the weekend.”

Fogel made no comment regarding the nature of the students’ occupation.

“It is good that they got in there, but it was terrible to watch,” said Meg Tiley, a UVM sophomore and member of the activist group Student Labor Action Project (S.L.A.P.), regarding the scuffle between Nelligan and the unidentified student.

The protestors left the wing shortly after Fogel spoke with them, giving themselves a round of applause. “They were claiming that Fogel was not even in there,” said S.A.W. member Bill Ottman, a UVM senior, “but somebody looked in and saw him.”

Ottman regarded the sit-in as a success, saying that the promise of meetings is a big step towards divestment.

“John Snow [the Chair of the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Socially Responsible Investing] said we’d have to wait six months to bring our case to them,” he said.

Fogel promised to meet with the students this Wednesday.