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Brown U. student tour guides picket in defense of peer who supported tour ‘disruptions’

Parents and students are ‘going to have to listen to what we have to say, too’

Over 30 Brown University student tour guides and supporters protested Friday in defense of a guide removed from his position for “cooperating” with anti-Israel activists to disrupt campus tours.

Protest supporters included the Palestine Solidarity Caucus, Third World Labor Organization, and Brown Divest Coalition.

According to The Brown Daily Herald, Janek Schaller was “demoted […] and prohibited from giving active tours” after sending a message on the Slack platform about working with Israel divestment activists to disrupt tours “in a safe and controlled manner.”

Associate Provost for Enrollment/Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Logan Powell had told Schaller his message “caused considerable distress.”

Schaller (pictured) submitted an “unfair labor practice complaint” to a federal mediator the last week of February despite “verbally resigning” over his message, according to the report.

The three dozen or so protesting tour guides alleged Brown engaged in “an unfair labor practice” by sacking Schaller. They want a commitment from the university to engage in “collective negotiations on codified policy regarding free speech protections.”

They also want Brown to divest from companies “that facilitate the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.”

Schaller, who according to his Brown U. bio is a cellist and reporter for an environmental podcast, said he will “never give another tour,” noting student guides should be able to discuss “unvarnished truth for the benefit of prospective students.”

In a statement directed at Brown officials, tour guide Caroline Sassan said “If you want us to keep talking about this school, we won’t do that in a very one-sided way. You’re going to have to listen to what we have to say, too.”

The Brown Admissions Office told tour guides in late February that “sharing your individualized negative experiences is not part of the mission or purpose of the tours.”

At a Thursday town hall meeting, Powell said “As campus ambassadors, we place a great deal of trust in the tour guides.” He added most “do a wonderful job representing Brown.”

MORE: Student guide ‘stands up’ for his beliefs by wearing ‘I [heart] Female Orgasm’ shirt on campus tour

IMAGES: Shutterstock.com; Brown U.

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