The term “campus trespassing” is not a new one in the US.
It dates back to the 1960s, when protesters occupying the campuses of University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Chicago used it to describe acts of disruptive, illegal and disruptive behaviour on campus.
The term has since been used to describe actions of students who attempt to disrupt educational events.
It was coined in the 1970s by former US President Gerald Ford.
The phrase became a rallying cry for civil rights activists, but its usage has been questioned by academics and activists, who say that it is used to justify the policing of political speech and other forms of dissent.
As a result, many universities are now considering new measures to ensure that students who engage in campus activism are arrested for criminal offences.
For instance, the US Supreme Court last year ruled that students can be arrested at a public university for disrupting a speech, while students at private colleges can be jailed for trespasses.
The court has also ruled that university staff are not allowed to arrest students who break the rules of the campus.
But the court’s ruling has led to criticism of the legal rationale behind the term, which critics say is often used to cover other forms and behaviours.
“The term ‘campus trespasser’ is now widely used to prosecute protesters who use public space, including sidewalks, to protest,” said Andrew Koehler, an assistant professor of political science at George Washington University.
“In some ways, this is ironic.
The reason that the term ‘student protest’ was created was to describe a variety of actions that could be interpreted as disruptive, but did not have to be criminal offences.”
But Koehl believes that the new term is not only misleading, but also has a discriminatory effect.
“It allows universities to use the term as a shield for their use of the ‘police state’,” he said.
The US Supreme court has ruled that protesters can be imprisoned for trespassings, while private colleges are allowed to imprison students for trespades.
This ruling has not yet been applied to universities in the UK.
But Kowhl argues that universities have a duty to ensure all students are treated fairly under the law, and that this should include protecting their rights to free speech.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” he said of the new policy.
“If the courts do not allow this to continue, we could be seeing the beginning of a new legal precedent for the criminalisation of students exercising their constitutional rights.”
The new policy will likely be enforced by police, and students will be charged with criminal trespass and criminal trespass with intent.
Kowelers analysis suggests that students could be arrested in several ways.
Students who break campus rules could be charged under the school’s campus trespassing policy, which can carry a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Alternatively, students could face charges under the campus trespass policy, as long as the actions occurred on university property and the person did not leave school premises before police arrived.
The new policies will be applied to all university campuses, and any students who are found guilty of a crime would face a fine of up to £10,000, and jail time of up a year.
However, there are some concerns about the new policies, including the fact that it could result in students being arrested for a variety in a single offence.
“As a result of this change, it may be difficult to identify when a student is likely to be charged,” said Koehler.
“Students could be caught with a small amount of weed or a piece of graffiti, but may be caught when they walk down the street, when they leave school grounds or when they return to their dormitories.
It is unclear whether this will be enough to prevent students from being arrested at all times, especially if they are in the vicinity of a university.”
The term is a particularly potent weapon for students to use against others, said Kowelman.
“One of the great things about the ‘campus trespass’ law is that it can be used as a weapon to punish people who are doing what they should not be doing,” he added.
“What it does is to say to them, ‘This is what we expect you to do, and you will get in trouble for doing it’.” This article originally appeared on Al Jazeera UK.