By Emily Gurchiek and Megan Ferguson, Chattanooga, TN—Students gathered Monday in Heritage Plaza to protest evangelist Angela Cummings, and this time, campus police have not put up a barrier.
Police Chief Robert Ratchford said leaders decided today there would not be a perimeter.
“Basically we are just assessing the situation right now and it is all in a fluid motion right now and it is subject to change,” Ratchford said. “We are not saying there will not be one in the future.”
Last week, UTC police arrested student Cole Montalvo after he broke the barrier around Cummings, who has been coming to campus to preach her religious beliefs.
Ratchford said there is discussion in process about alternative locations and giving people the right to free speech.
“This entire process is under discussion as far as exactly how to respond and actually give people the right to free speech,” Ratchford said. “So we got several different departments from Student Development, Legal Counsel, University Relations – we are all in constant dialogue about this.
Cummings has been so controversial on campus that student Erica Paris, a senior from Chickamauga, Ga., started an online petition on change.org called Dr. Joe DiPietro: Stop allowing verbally abusive protestors to scream on UTC’s campus. The petition currently has 1, 542 signatures.
More than 1,500 people have signed the petition and expressed concerns, such as Cummings’ free speech being protected more than students’. Some people also said in the petition comments that Cummings was disrupting class and campus life.
University spokesman Chuck Cantrell told The Echo last week that officials are legally bound to allow people to practice free speech.
“People with varying view points are allowed to express them on campus,” he said. “This is the college experience.”
The Huffington Post featured the University in an article about the situation.
Click here to read more background on the issue, and The Echo will have more on this developing story in coming days.