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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Hundreds Crowd Ryan for Forum

Hundreds Crowd Ryan for Forum

Members of the UMB community filled the Ryan lounge Monday for a forum on the arrest of Professor Anthony Van Der Meer last Thursday. Tensions ran high as the panelists spoke, nearly boiling over when a woman in the back of the room interrupted and booed some of the speakers.

About 30 people from the audience lined up to comment and question the panelists, only two of whom thought racism wasn’t involved in the incident. Many requested that the that the charges against Van Der Meer, which are assault and battery and resisting arrest, be dropped, and some requested that action be taken against the recruiter.

The forum panel included chief of public safety Philip O’Donnell, who had a prepared opening statement and answered questions of the community. “I try to make the police force reflect the community it serves,” said O’Donnell in his statement, and noted, “officer retention is extremely difficult.”

When asked by community members if he was proud of his officers, O’Donnell answered with a firm yes, and gave no comment when asked about criteria for arrest when two parties are involved in an altercation.

Professor Van Der Meer was present and spoke briefly, mentioning previous confrontations with the campus police. Van Der Meer expressed desire to keep the incident out of the court system, “We can resolve these issues we have here in a righteous way.”

Professor Jemadari Kamara gave a pointed speech in which he addressed the problem of racism on the campus and in society. “I don’t think the problem is procedure,” said Kamara, referring to the arrest of professor Van Der Meer.

Two of the panelists were students Rich Zamor and Fritz Hyppolite, who addressed the need to investigate the issue at a student level.

Kevin Bowen from the Joiner Center was the last panelist to speak. “I don’t think any of us feel safe right now,” said Bowen as he addressed the current war in Iraq.

Bowen also described part of the Patriot Act, enacted shortly after 9/11, which requires military recruiters be allowed on U.S. college campuses.

Vice Chancellor David MacKenzie opened the forum with a statement from Chancellor Jo Ann Gora, who was not present. MacKenzie expressed concern that the incident may be part of a pattern.

“It was very disturbing to hear how people felt threatened and unsafe here at the university,” said MacKenzie in response to the press conference held Thursday night. “If we start tearing at ourselves we will only help those who would love to tear us down,” he said, as he concluded his opening speech.

MacKenzie stated that the charges against Professor Van Der Meer were now in the hands of the District Attorney. He declined to comment when asked if the university has any influence or will use any influence over the District Attorney’s actions.

Many community member voiced concerns over the Patriot Act. “The United States is a prison, the Patriot Act made it a prison,” said one anonymous speaker.