Eight University of Michigan students were arrested Wednesday night after they blocked a busy intersection near campus in protest over the university's policy not to offer undocumented students from Michigan in-state tuition.
Seven students and one U-M alumnus were arrested, U-M police spokeswoman Diane Brown told the Detroit Free Press. She said police processed and released them pending charges. They could be charged with disorderly conduct, disobeying a police officer or impeding traffic, Brown told the Free Press.
About 50 people, mostly U-M students, started the rally by marching from the Michigan Union to U-M President Mary Sue Coleman's home. They then formed a circle at the intersection of South State Street and South University Avenue—two busy streets that border the Ann Arbor campus.
As cars honked, police officers on the scene began directing traffic around the protesters who chanted, "Education, not deportation." Most protesters fled to the sidewalk after police warned them that they risked arrest by remaining in the street.
U-M senior Yonah Lieberman was one of the students that was arrested. Prior to being led into a police vehicle, he told the Free Press that he was "willing to risk arrest."
"The cause is worthy enough," he said. "The students (who) can't get in here deserve our support."
The students, members of the group the Coalition for Tuition Equality, believe that undocumented residents of Michigan should be allowed to pay in-state tuition to attend U-M. Currently, they have to pay international rates, and because they're undocumented the students aren't eligible for most financial aid.
U-M Regent Mark Bernstein (D-Ann Arbor) answered student questions on Twitter Wednesday night. When asked about the protest, Bernstein, who was elected last November, said the university "has long tradition of student activism. Part of our history/culture. Proud of this engagement."
CTE was formed in October 2011, and its members have staged a number of high-profile protests across campus. A group of students and administrators produced a report on the feasibility of changing the university's policy. The report was presented to the university's Board of Regents last month, and a group of administrators are working to present recommendations to the board.
The group of students and administrators also traveled to California last fall to learn how the University of California, Berkeley and UCLA have implemented policies to give undocumented California residents in-state tuition.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon, but the topic of in-state tuition for undocumented residents isn't on the prepared agenda. U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told AnnArbor.com that he doesn't expect the regents to discuss the administrators' recommendations at Thursday's meeting.
However, students from CTE are expected to address the regents during the public comments section.
– Joseph Lichterman, Michigan Radio Newsroom