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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Editorial – 4/10/03

Editor’s Note: The following editorial was intended to run in the April 10 edition of The Mass Media, but due to an internal workflow error an earlier, unedited version ran. We apologize to our readers for the confusion.

The arrest of UMB Africana Studies Professor Tony Van Der Meer, following a verbal disagreement with a National Guard recruiter on Thursday, April 3, raises some questions about policies and procedures here at UMB.

Reportedly, a National Guard recruiter turned to a student and Professor Van Der Meer and said, “You should be shot in the head for doing this”-referring to the passing out of fliers in support of a moment of silence on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination the next day.

This fairly simple, though ignorant, statement, escalated into a minor media frenzy, with activists proclaiming police brutality and institutional racism.

Some say the officers used excessive force, while other witnesses feel the officers responded appropriately. Regardless of the severity of each individual’s actions, the police, the professor and the recruiter should all have conducted themselves with greater restraint and professionalism.

No one is positive about exactly how the events transpired, though it seems clear that the situation could have been handled with more tact and responsibility.

The decision made by Student Life not to have security monitoring the National Guard recruiting table, even though there is strong anti-war sentiment on this campus, is questionable. Weeks ago, one of the students passing out fliers last Thursday got into a yelling match with recruiters. Student Life is aware of the incident, and as a result no longer schedules student anti-war organizations and recruiters at the same time. Since they knew conflict between recruiters and students was a possibility, security should have been present beforehand. As tensions increase regarding the situation in Iraq, some people would undoubtedly have an emotional response to military recruiters on their campus.

The Mass Media’s article about Thursday’s arrest also suggests that UMB public safety officers responded to the confrontation inappropriately by arresting Van Der Meer and letting the recruiter leave the campus without even being questioned. Chief of Campus Police Philip O’Donnell said in an April 7 UMB community forum that the officers followed standard operating procedures during the situation. Perhaps Campus Police should carefully scrutinize their policies and procedures.

The student and professor were understandably upset by the recruiter’s comments and should have been handled with more consideration. But for the professor to play the race card against police on network television muddies the issues and shows an overreaction.

If recruiters are to come onto this campus, they should exhibit professionalism, and refrain from becoming involved with people or activities not directly related to their purpose on campus. As guests of the university, they should treat their host with respect.

Finally, the recruiters should not have been allowed to leave the scene without even being questioned by police. Clearly at least one recruiter was mixed up in the dispute, and it is only appropriate to question all concerned parties, as well as any material witnesses.

Poor judgment was shown all around, and some simple forethought or self-restraint on the part of any person or group involved could have prevented the entire episode.