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U.Md. students rally, share competing calls to action after Durkin decision

At the College Park campus, University of Maryland students gathered Thursday afternoon at the steps of an administrative building to remember student-athlete Jordan McNair and to share competing calls to action.

WASHINGTON — At the College Park campus, University of Maryland students gathered Thursday afternoon at the steps of an administrative building to remember student-athlete Jordan McNair and to share competing calls to action.

Some students were calling for a boycott of Maryland football games. “We’re students! And, we have student power! We run this university, not the administrators!” yelled one student supporting a boycott.

But others, including Student Government Association President Jonathan Allen, wanted to pack an upcoming football game.

The Student Government Association organized the rally and march in support of McNair, his family, and the university’s student-athletes.

And though student government leaders are applauding the decision by university President Wallace Loh to fire football coach DJ Durkin, they say more still needs to be done now and in the future.

“The regents should have fired coach Durkin outright,” Allen said earlier Thursday. “That’s what the McNair family had asked for weeks ago, if not months ago. That should have been the obvious decision, and that’s the outcome that everyone expected, which is why there was shock when he was reinstated and why there was such an outcry.”

“We’re happy with the decision that came out yesterday,” added Rohina Nambiar, the vice president of the SGA. “But, there’s still more to be done.” 

The SGA also called for Jim Brady, the chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, to step down. Allen said Brady had failed the student body and campus community.

Brady announced his intent to resign later Thursday, saying in a statement, “In my estimation, my continued presence on the board will inhibit its ability to move Maryland’s higher education agenda forward. And I have no interest in serving as a distraction from that important work.”

A group of academic leaders, including the provost and dean of the University of Maryland, recently released a letter condemning the actions of the Board of Regents. In the letter, they said that the board interfered in university governance matters and undermined Loh’s authority.

Loh is expected to retire in the coming months.

In the longer term, Allen wants to see major changes that have a more direct impact on the broader student body.

Right now, students pay nearly $2,000 per year in mandatory fees, and the largest chunk of that goes directly to the athletic department. Allen and Nambiar said that needs to change, and the SGA plans to adopt a formal motion that would do just that at a meeting next month.

“Every undergraduate student here pays a $406 annual fee for the athletics department, which accounts for $12 million of their budget,” Allen said. “Since the summer, students have been saying, ‘How can we be forced to financially support a department that does not share the same values as us?’”

His proposal is to reduce that fee by 75 percent, and let students opt in to financial support of the sports programs in College Park, instead of providing students with a limited — though, lately, not often reached — number of free tickets to sporting events on campus.

Student attendance at sporting events, especially football games, has become particularly sparse in recent years, even though the tickets are free and the venues that host the events are situated close to several high-rise dormitories.

“Most schools in the Big Ten have an opt-in model,” Allen said. “The only other school that has a mandatory fee is Northwestern, and so we don’t believe that students should be forced to support the department. At the same time, we think that if they’re opting in, if they’re buying these tickets, they’re actually more likely to stay at the games and stay for the whole game.”

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report. 


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