U Pledges Not to Penalize Applicants Disciplined for Gun Control Protests


Photo Courtesy of Chronicle archives.

By Linda Derhak

High school students across the U.S. have begun to organize peaceful protests to demand gun control reform in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. Many school districts, however, have said that they will discipline students who participate in these protests.

The University of Utah joined over 200 universities who have released statements saying they will not penalize students in the admissions process who were disciplined for engaging in protest.

In a post on Facebook on Feb. 27, the U’s admissions office wrote, “An applicant’s participation or lack of participation in peaceful protests is not a reason for the University of Utah to deny or rescind an offer of admission.”

This policy is a significant gesture of support for free speech as more high school students are getting involved in movements to advocate for gun law reform. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school organized an event on March 24 called “March For Our Lives.”

The rally is being held in Washington, D.C., but those unable to make it can host one locally. As of Monday, there were 415 different marches planned across the country, including one in Salt Lake City.

A website describes the movement as “created by, inspired by and led by students across the country who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.”

Organizers hope that actions spurred by the Parkland shooting will make a difference.

“Change is coming,” reads the website. “And it starts now, inspired by and led by the kids who are our hope for the future. Their young voices will be heard.”

Harper Coleman-Houghton, a LEAP Peer Advisor, is among students at the U who are glad the school has taken this stance.

“Personally for me, there’s all of these movements in Utah, like Bears Ears, gay rights, air quality,” Coleman-Houghton said. “This allows students to go and speak their minds. I went to a high school where a lot of students would go to these kinds of protests. I myself supported the gay rights movements because I have gay parents. It’s great that the university is doing this.”

Executive director of admissions Rakin Hall hopes that the policy “shows support for students in general.”

Hall said the policy was the product of extensive discussions among recruitment staff, as well as departments throughout the U inquiring on the school’s stance.

“The University of Utah respects the rights of students to participate in active and responsible civic engagement,” reads the admissions office’s post.

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