What’s A University For? Case Western Suddenly Shuts Down To House Riot Police


Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) prides itself on being the leading research university in Northeast Ohio. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that not only would CWRU be housing approximately 1,700 riot police in student dormitories during the Republican National Convention, that not only would those police be permitted to store their weapons in student dormitories, and that not only would widespread student opposition to this decision be placated with two milquetoast Q&A sessions – “opportunities to learn,” President Barbara Snyder called them – but that my colleagues and I, with only one week’s notice, would be expected to cancel a week of summer classes in order to accommodate the quartering of the paramilitary force descending on Cleveland to police the city during the convention.

To be precise, the classes aren’t officially cancelled. A follow up notice from the university explains: “The only change to the existing practice is that these classes do not take place on our campus during those days.” Furthermore, the notice continues, “the educational experience may take place at a different time, place or manner, but the learning will still take place.” This attempt to dodge the accusation I am making—that CWRU is cancelling classes—is perfunctory at best. While my colleagues are brilliant, innovative, and committed teachers, I don’t think anyone who understands the energy and preparation that goes into teaching a college course would realistically imagine that “the learning will still take place” in anything resembling the manner we envisioned when we designed our courses. Can we actually presume that asking faculty to reboot one eighth of their entire class, during week seven of an eight week term and with less than one week of notice, will lead to a positive learning experience for our students? Unlikely. Instead of disputing semantics, I will continue to call this decision what it is: CWRU is effectively cancelling its classes in order to host 1,700 riot police for the RNC. I fail to see the wisdom in rebranding our mistakes in order to imply otherwise.