Board of Trustees meeting turns violent

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

Wildwood adjunct professor tackled while approaching vice chairman

STORY BY: Melissa Wilkinson
Editor-in-Chief

Photo by: Melissa Wilkinson

Photo by: Noah Sliney

The Oct. 19 STLCC Board of Trustees meeting turned unexpectedly violent when Wildwood adjunct professor Steve Taylor was thrown to the ground by a police officer.

After the first speech in the citizen’s address section of the meeting, many audience members applauded the speaker. Vice Chairman Rodney Gee silenced the applause, inciting Taylor, who began yelling from the back of the room about the injustice of the situation.

“When the first person was done giving their statement people were clapping,” said Isaiah Wilson, a Meramec student who attended the meeting. “After that, Rodney Gee told people to stop clapping, that it was a disruption to the board meeting. And the faculty member that was tackled was trying to stand up for our freedom of speech.”

Gee had established at the meeting’s start that anyone speaking aggressively or out of turn would be asked to leave the room. Following protocol, Taylor was asked to leave. 

Taylor, however, refused to leave and began walking up the center aisle toward the board members, at which point he was thrown to the ground by a police officer. Taylor continued yelling as he was escorted from the room. He was later taken to a hospital for medical attention, still escorted by police.

Many audience members called the police action unjustified. Luke Barber, a Meramec student in attendance, described the event as “an unlawful arrest.”

“A faculty member was body slammed face first into the ground, dropped on his head,” said Barber. “This is a first amendment issue of freedom to petition and freedom to assemble.”

But Gee said he felt afraid that Taylor was going to attack him when he approached the board table that night.

“The First Amendment right doesn’t give anyone the right to assault or to batter,” said Gee. “I have the right to protection as well.”

According to Forest Park adjunct professor Brett Williams, Chancellor Pittman also expressed concerns.

“[Pittman] said ‘that man was going to attack us,’ and I said ‘you don’t know that,’ and he said ‘we felt like we were going to be attacked. That police officer was protecting us,’” said Williams.

While Gee said that Taylor “rushed” at him, Steve Thomas, adjunct professor at Forest Park, said he saw a very different scene.

“He just walked toward them,” said Thomas. “This is not a man who’s threatening. He had his hands in the air with nothing in them. They just wanted to shut us down from speaking.”

The situation left many feeling “frustrated and attacked,” according to Williams, who likened the event to police treatment of those protesting the Stockley verdict. Williams said he has been protesting for the last month and saw many peaceful protesters attacked by police with no justification.

“I don’t think talking or even yelling constitutes being tackled…A colleague of mine was tackled to the ground for saying there was a violation of the First Amendment. I think that’s egregious,” said Williams.

At the beginning of the meeting Gee announced that the behaviors exhibited at the last board meeting, during which many speakers went over time and spoke out of turn, would not be tolerated this time. This included audience applause after each speaker during the open forum section, despite applause being allowed during the administrative presentations. Gee’s statement raised questions of hypocrisy among many audience members, according to Thomas.

“It was clear to me that we could clap when they congratulated each other from administrator to administrator,” said Thomas. “I felt the same frustration Steve was feeling…I was clapping like many in the room were. You can’t allow this for one thing and not another.”

Wilson said he also disagreed with the no applause policy.

“I think if other people are being applauded for their achievements and their accomplishments…you should be able to clap for speeches,” said Wilson.

Board meeting policies have already changed due to the outpour of attendees at the Sept. 28 meeting. During that meeting, speakers were given no indication of when their two minutes of allotted time would be up until they were over. The Oct. 19 meeting introduced a cue card held up for each speaker when they had 30 seconds remaining. Whether future policies will be changed after the most recent meeting’s events remains to be seen.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the Cosand Center.

  • Jack S

    There are rules everywhere including at any public forum.

    • Marc Schneider

      thanks jack.

    • MakoNeko

      The rules should apply to everyone equally. If a rule says no applause, there should be no applause for anyone. If you make an exception to the rule you have to make that same exception to the rule for everyone who knows you made an exception. For example if someone turns in an assignment late and they were the only one allowed to do so, in front of an entire class of students, that wouldn’t be fair to any of the other students who witnessed the special treatment. If the exception was made in private, that would be between the teacher and the student who received the exception.

      That teacher didn’t deserve to be tackled to the ground for approaching the board. There were other ways for those police officers to handle the situation that wouldn’t have injured that teacher. They handled the situation poorly and someone got hurt as a result.

  • Mike H

    I for one would like to applaud the professor’s actions, loudly, and right in Mr Gee’s face.

  • Concerned Archer

    How are rules established and to the benefit of whom? The continuous attempt to criminalize free speech at U.S. neoliberal institutions of higher learning is appalling. One very top-down decision in the works at STLCC concerns a potential Reduction in Force alleging institutional financial constraints (not yet transparently substantiated) and the CORE of the College — faculty, staff and students — is questioning this decision process. The STLCC community has battled for several years now administrative leadership that seems not to understand the democratic history of the College, a history of more than 50 years as a very respected institution of higher learning in St. Louis. STLCC needs to continue to stand for its democratic principles while honoring the participation and voices of the College community. The strong-armed tactics exhibited at the October 19 BOT Meeting do not reveal STLCC as a democratic public sphere — a very sad development; the very identity of STLCC as an ACADEMIC institution is being shattered!

  • May

    Like usual, the professor was focused on the interests and the administration was focused on themselves.

    Faculty are disrespected over and over again at stlcc. They deserve better!

  • CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP

    Arr Gee is an egotistical creep. Loves to hear his own voice coming over the microphone.

  • Jackson Trett

    He should have been tackled! He was out of control and should have obeyed the commands to LEAVE! That’s the problem with faculty at STLCC, they feel entitled, arrogant, and above the law. THEY are the reason enrollment is at an all time low and the college will never progress with these OLD FOOLS in our classrooms! We need young, innovative professors that are relevant!

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