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Administrators answer to students at open forum
By Danielle DePari

War dominated a forum with UCF administrators Monday as students drilled President John Hitt and his lieutenants about campus demonstrations and the university's financial investments in companies that profited from the Iraqi conflict.

Patrick Rostock, a member of Campus Peace Action, expressed the need for a campus with borderless speech zones.

"You need to make the campus entirely free for speech. ... Designated areas make demonstrations inaccessible," Rostock said.

Hitt said the problem of remote speech zones was resolved last year after the administration created three new regions on campus for free speech activity in addition to an existing area on the Chemistry Green, Hitt said.

The new zones include areas outside of the Math and Physics Building, outside of the Arena and next to the Student Union.

"We have decided that a free speech campus isn't the direction to go for now," Hitt said. "It creates problems with pedestrian traffic and holding classes."

Other concerns regarding the war came from student Jonathan Leto, who wondered whether there were any moral implications for UCF, which has close ties to Lockheed Martin.

"Lockheed Martin has a $15 billion contract with the Department of Defense - does that mean anything to you?" Leto asked.

Hitt said it is not uncommon for shareholders to invest in defense in a time of international threat and conceded it was possible that UCF did own stock in Lockheed Martin.

Student Josh Edmundson complained to administrators about UCF Police officers' actions at last week's pro-troop rally. He claimed that after observing a dispute between two opposing sides, he had to convince officers to intervene.

"I had to pull out the Golden Rule," Edmundson said.

Vice President William Merck defended the officers, stating they reacted appropriately in the situation. In times of protests, police action often excites the crowd and causes more violence, he said.

There were no arrests and no confrontations that led to anything worse, and besides uniformed officers, there were four undercover officers in the crowd to maintain order at the divisive event, he said.

Edmundson also questioned why police chose to stand away from the rally, whose organizers had called them there for their protection.

"The police are there to keep order, not to protect individuals," Hitt said. "Their real job was to protect the whole crowd. They are not a private sector security force."

Hospitality major Lisa Rarick's concerns were academic. Frustrated with the university's policy that limits students to 17 credit hours per semester, even during the summer sessions, she demanded to know how she could appeal the policy a second time because her first appeal was denied.

Administrators suggested that Rarick work through the appeals process again and applauded her for her vigor in her academic career. Provost Gary Whitehouse said the 17-hour restriction is especially necessary in the summer, because classes are fast-paced during the shortened term.

Junior Shaun Gyger hoped he could convince administrators to salvage an intramural field that university officials have marked for demolition with plans to construct a pool over it. He also asked administrators to repair existing fields pitted with deep holes that posed hazards to students who played on them.

Vice President Tom Huddleston offered Gyger few answers except a promise that the administration might work with the Student Government Association and athletics to install lights on intramural fields.

Business major Bonnie Ebner echoed many students' sentiments when she asked administrators to solve registration dilemmas. Business students have to wait two hours to see an adviser every time they receive an error message, she said.

Huddleston empathized with those students, and admitted the problem had plagued business majors for a long time.

"These problems have been going on in the business school for the 10 years I have been here," he said. "It's because of prerequisites in the department, which are the most comprehensive in the school. It is unfortunate students are affected."

Resident Assistant Chris Yern expressed concerns about the lack of housing extensions being offered to students living on-campus this semester. Those moving out have to vacate by April 29, although most cannot move into their new apartments until May 1. While many students are willing to pay an extra day's rent, the university has not made that opportunity available as it has in the past, nor has it offered other living arrangements for students.

Huddleston said halls had to close for a day to clean and prepare them for new residents, but he assured students he would work to resolve the problem.

Jonathan Leto - jonathan at leto dot net

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