15 students arraigned Wednesday on trespassing charges

By Shelby Ashline

Daniel Maldonado/Daily Collegian
(Daniel Maldonado/Daily Collegian)

Fifteen University of Massachusetts students were arraigned in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown Wednesday morning on charges of trespassing.

The students were arrested at Whitmore Administration Building Tuesday night following the second day-long sit-in protest by the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign against the University’s investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Despite a pledge of advocacy for divestment by Victor Woolridge, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, and UMass President Marty Meehan according to a UMass press release, student protesters continued their occupation of Whitmore after it closed for business.

Following hours of negotiation between members of the campaign and UMass administrators, many students willingly left at around 8:20 p.m. The remaining 15 students were arrested at 9:30 p.m. following several warnings from the UMass Police Department, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported yesterday.

All of the students chose to represent themselves in court Wednesday and met in a group with Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Robert Opsitnick to discuss their options, according to MassLive. The students were all offered the same sentencing deal under District Court Judge Thomas Estes.

Thus far, fourteen of the students have been put on four months of probation under the conditions that they stay away from Whitmore after 6 p.m. They also must complete 20 hours of community service each, and have the option of paying a $50 fine or completing four hours of community service for each month they are on probation.

The remaining student, Christine Dasco, had to leave the courthouse before it was time to enter a plea. She will be back in court Thursday, when she is expected to accept the deal, according to MassLive.

According to UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski, it is standard policy for information about the arrests to also be sent to the Dean of Students Office.

“Anytime a student is arrested and we were aware of it, that information is sent to the Dean of Students and it is reviewed,” he said in a phone interview. The Dean of Students Office will decide if the students violated the Student Code of Conduct and what action, if any, needs to be taken.

According to the probation office at the Eastern Hampshire District Courthouse, the students will return to court August 17 at the end of their probation, when the charges will be dismissed as long as they comply with the conditions.

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected].