By Mattie Fitzpatrick | October 16, 2023
UAlbany students holding signs in opposition to the pro-life demonstration at the event on April 4, 2023.
Photo Credit: Abby Lorch / The ASP
Adjunct Professor Renee Overdyke was arrested in the Spring Semester of 2023 by the University Police Department (UPD). The arrest took place on the academic podium of the University at Albany’s uptown campus after Professor Overdyke unplugged a television showing graphic images of dead fetuses at the Created Equal Abortion Event. She was detained on April 4, 2023, and charged with three offenses relating to this incident.
Overdyke, 57, was charged with three separate infractions: Obstruction of Governmental Administration in the Second Degree which involves intentionally obstructing a public servant from performing an official function, Resisting Arrest given that she put up a physical fight while being arrested, and Disturbance of Lawful Assembly or Disorderly Conduct. Disorderly conduct is a violation while resisting arrest is a class A misdemeanor.
Information provided for this arrest was limited at the time of arrest, although videos were taken of the arrest itself. Students can be heard yelling in the background as Professor Overdyke flailed to release herself from the officer’s grip. In the original reporting about the incident, however, one detail was neglected. In the police report for the incident, Overdyke’s actions are described as “unplugging a group's projector and sitting on the electrical cord while refusing to move.”
Without this information, the arrest was considered to be unfounded. As a result of the outrage created about Professor Overdyke’s arrest, a petition was created on Change.org by Nayeka Edmond to get the charges dropped against Professor Overdyke. This petition garnered 828 signatures.
As a public campus, UAlbany does not have the right to restrict speech due to controversy because of the protections provided by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States which protects freedom of speech.
However, UAlbany does have the power to determine the time, place, and manner of speech to encourage minimal interference in the operation of the college. UAlbany is a public entity and is partially funded by New York State tax dollars and as such it complies with the First Amendment by giving a forum for third parties to share their ideas in the interest of free speech.
The charges against Professor Overdyke were dismissed by the judge and she continued to teach at UAlbany without disciplinary actions, according to an email Professor Overdyke sent to former students after her dismissal. The judge dismissing the charges infers that the judge disagrees on one of the following counts; disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, or obstruction of governmental administration in the second degree.
Likewise, a judge can dismiss the case if they find no legal basis for the charge, if the defendant’s rights have been violated, or if the state has failed to prove its case. Judges can dismiss a case either on their own motion or on the motion of the defendant. Most charges, however, are dismissed by prosecutors, not judges.
Professor Overdyke wrote in her email, “... no other disciplinary action against me was taken last semester. You may also recall that I continued teaching four classes and over 350 students throughout the Spring 2023 semester with no further incident.”
“I believe my arrest was unnecessary, excessive, and violated my free speech right. I did not attempt to resist a lawful arrest, nor did I attempt to obstruct a lawful assembly,” Professor Overdyke said on a draft of a statement she made regarding events that occurred on April 19, 2023.
Despite no action taken during the Spring 2023 semester however and the charges dropped, Professor Overdyke was not given classes for the Fall 2023 semester although she continued teaching four classes and over 350 students in the Spring 2023 Semester despite no disciplinary action taken.
“Renee Overdyke is not employed as an adjunct faculty member at UAlbany this semester,” UAlbany Director of Communications and University Spokesperson Jordan Carleo-Evangelist said on her employment status.
“As the largest higher education labor union in the country, UUP represents all its members in good standing in grievance proceedings. Since Professor Overdyke's case is ongoing, we are unable to provide further comment,” Mike Lisi, Communications Director of the United University Professions (UUP), which represents professional staff in the SUNY System, said.
“After 17 years of continuous service, my only wish is that I resume teaching at the University at Albany, peacefully and professionally,” Professor Overdyke said on her dismissal from UAlbany.