The president of Macalester College was criticized this week after offering financial assistance to “any currently enrolled student who participates in civil disobedience and needs help with bail or a fine.”
“I care deeply about both the wellbeing of our students and their right to practice civil disobedience,” President Suzanne Rivera said on Twitter Thursday morning.
“I affirm that our students have the support of Macalester in various ways including: Any currently enrolled student who participates in civil disobedience and needs help with bail or a fine they cannot afford can seek reimbursement by emailing me,” she added, inviting students to call the school’s public safety line if they need “help after business hours.”
Any currently enrolled student who participates in civil disobedience and needs help with bail or a fine they cannot afford can seek reimbursement by emailing me.
— Macalester President (@MacalesterPres) November 5, 2020
Rivera then released a statement on the matter Thursday night, saying her comments had “caused a stir.”
“I want to tell the Macalester community in no uncertain terms where I stand: peaceful protest is patriotic. It is our duty in this democracy to make our views known. This is true at the ballot box, in our classrooms, and beyond the walls of the campus,” she said.
Her statement referenced a June 15 letter she sent to the campus community, which affirmed the right of students and faculty to “engage in civil disobedience.”
“The conscientious and peaceful refusal to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or policies is a time-honored tradition in this country,” said the June 15 letter.
In that letter, Rivera offered to reimburse students for transportation expenses and fines, and make “legal advice available to international students who want to participate in protests.”
Rivera’s Thursday tweets were posted the morning after more than 600 people were arrested for obstructing traffic on Interstate 94.
“Whether students are advocating for ensuring all votes are counted in our elections, which they were last night, or some other cause, I don’t think it’s my place to pass judgement on their views,” Rivera concluded.
“From my perspective, offering to reimburse fines for civil disobedience is an equity issue. What I am emphasizing here is that if any students cannot afford the fines for peaceful protest then I would be willing to reimburse them because freedom of speech is not a privilege only our wealthy students should enjoy.”