Wash. U. to support class of 2022 applicants who peacefully protest

Emma Baker | News Editor

“March on,” the statement from Washington University ends, pledging to prospective students in the class of 2022 that they will not face consequences from the University if they are disciplined for engaging in peaceful protests.

Washington University joined the ranks of universities and colleges across the country assuring applicants that their offers of admission will not be rescinded if they are suspended by their high schools for peacefully protesting. At the time of publication, 257 other schools have made the same promise to their class of 2022 applicants.

The statement—sparked by a national wave of students demanding gun control legislation reform following the eighth school shooting of 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Feb. 14—was a sign of reassurance to some in the incoming class of 2022.

“I am really glad that Wash. U. has made a statement on peaceful protests,” prospective member of the class of 2022 Gabbi Kaplan said. “It is really exciting that we, as teenagers, have the ability to make a big impact on our world. Now, because of Wash. U.’s statement, I feel that students will be more comfortable participating in these important protests.”

For others, this statement reinforced accusations of the University’s hypocrisy with respect to its history with student activism.

“Wash. U. tries to build itself as a leader. But all too often, it follows the lead of other peer institutions who actually want to take the first step forward,” recent graduate Christian Ralph said. “What struck me first was that this is a statement the University had to make my freshman year [with] students against Peabody [when seven] students were arrested by [the Washington University Police Department] for crossing a line when they were protesting against decisions of Wash. U. to have high value connections with Peabody and dirty coal.”

In addition to publicly making a statement on Twitter, the University updated its FAQ section on the admissions website, emphasizing that admissions “encourages civic engagement” for applicants.

“If you are disciplined by your high school for engaging in peaceful demonstrations, that disciplinary action will not have a negative impact on how your application is reviewed,” the statement reads. “If you have already been admitted, your acceptance will not be rescinded.”

This reaction among higher education institutions is part of a national response to school districts threatening to suspend students who engage in protests during school hours. The public statements may also be in anticipation of the “National School Walkout” March 14, in which participating students will walk out of class for 17 minutes at 10:00 a.m. to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.

“In order for a learning environment to be collaborative and functional, you need to take into account all sides of a debate. And getting that nod that we can express our opinions and won’t be penalized for expressing our opinions is step in the right direction,” pre-freshman Barri Levitt said. “I have had friends who have made attempts on their own lives. and they have been very nervous because they’ve put in so much work to just have the will to live. So, why should someone have the right to end their life because they can easily buy a gun? I’m walking for them.”