Hundreds of Shepherdstown residents have signed an online petition asking Shepherd University to reconsider a recently made decision to deny the Really Really Free Market (RRFM) use of McMurran Hall's lawn and wall.
Though the community event -- which facilitates the exchange of a variety of free goods-- has been held in this location for approximately five years without remark, university officials recently found the historic property inappropriate for use by the market.
Market organizer Robert Glenn said he was asked to attend a discussion early last week with university officials regarding institutional policy on the matter.
According to Glenn he was directed to cancel plans for the first market of the season originally scheduled to be held Saturday and Sunday April 6 and 7.
"They said having 'stuff on the wall' for an extended period of time is not in keeping with their policy regarding use of the space," he said.
Since the April 2 meeting, Glenn and fellow RRFM organizer, Brandon Nesmith have launched an online effort to gather community support for the market, in hopes that they'll persuade university officials to change their minds.
We want to engage them with a group, Glenn said.
"We hope that we can reach an understanding."
Since a Change.org petition was posted to the Really Really Free Market's Facebook page last Sunday, nearly 300 people have signed and endorsed the RRFMs effort.
In addition, a paper petition has been distributed throughout the downtown business community and Glenn said a "Friends of the Really Really Free Market" group is in the works.
Though Glenn said hes begun considering alternative locations for the market, he believes "the wall," as its known colloquially, is the most appropriate location for an event of this type.
"I understand that they (Shepherd University) own it, but it's also considered a community space informally. It's the center of town ...That's why I chose it," he said.
For its part the university has issued a statement regarding its decision.
"Shepherd University is applying its facilities usage policy in a uniform manner. The use of the grounds of historic McMurran Hall by the Really Really Free Market is not in keeping with institutional policies for use of the facility. The University's decision in no way reflects upon the worthiness of the group."
In a phone interview Monday, University Communications Executive Director Valerie Owens said the university's decision to enforce the usage policy reflects its desire to better manage university space.
"They are trying to keep the space open for Shepherd sponsored events," she said.
To read the full text of the university's policy regarding use visit www.shepherd.edu/bogweb/policies/policy17.html.
More information about the Really Really Free Market can be found by visiting its Facebook page.