Administrators Amend Free Speech Policy

a href="mailto:[email protected]">PAULINE GUIUAN
El Vaquero News Editor

“The Glendale Community College district is committed to maintaining an educational environment that fosters the free exchange of thoughts and ideas.” This is the first statement in Board Policy 5410, the document that deals with free speech on campus, which was revised by college administrators and reviewed March 20 by the college Board of Trustees.

The Board also approved the amended Administrative Regulation 5410, an extension of the policy passed by Student Affairs, on the same day.

The policy, titled “Freedom of Speech: Time, Place and Manner,” derived from Education Code Section 76120, was first adopted in 1973 and was last revised in 1995.

According to the Dean of Student Services, Paul Schlossman, this document “protects rights to free speech activities” on campus while at the same time “makes sure that these activities don’t interfere with classes and normal campus business.”

Schlossman and Vice President of Student Services, Sharon Combs, are two of the administrators who drafted changes to the policy with the college’s legal counsel Warren Kinsler.

“This is a very broad policy that covers a lot of areas,” Schlossman said. “It doesn’t just regulate speakers [on campus], but also [regulates] events and activities like posting, distributing print material and setting up booths.”

Schlossman explained that the review and revision of the document is done every few years in order to remain updated with “different changes in the law, current law cases and legal precedents” dealing with free speech. “This makes the college better equipped to deal with any free speech issues,” he said.

The dean emphasized the policy revisions “do not restrict the content of speech activities. In the law, as it applies to colleges and universities, it allows us to place restrictions on the time, place and manner of speech activities, but we stay away from content.”

But just as the Constitution mandates, the college may restrict any speech that is considered “obscene, libelous and slanderous.” This was one revision made to the policy.

Administrative Regulation 5410 is a similar document that discusses the regulations of the board policy more thoroughly. It lists specific rules on the time, place and manner with which free speech may be exercised on campus.

Revisions to this document were approved by the college Executive Committee on March 14, while the Board Policy went through a first reading on March 20 and will receive its approval after a second reading at the next Board meeting.

“What happened in the last two weeks was that the committee was willing to fix problems [in the administrative regulation],” said Mike Allen, Executive Committee member and President of the College Guild, a committee composed of 850 faculty members, referring to the first two weeks of March. The Guild first reviewed the document in January before taking it to the executive committee.

According to Allen, proposals to revise the regulation were triggered by “problems on campus with groups that tried to convert students to their political views last year.”

Allen was referring to the Larouche followers, who interrupted a class in order to express their political beliefs last year.

“They were disruptive,” Allen said. “They interrupted classes and teachers. Existing policies don’t outlaw that.” He also referred to the need for restrictions on time, particularly with activities that were done “too early in the morning or too late at night.”

Schlossman added that other concerns included students posting ads on “glass or painted surfaces” or distributing leaflets excessively, which could both cause trash and maintenance problems.

Allen said that several aspects of the regulation needed to be “rewritten.” For instance, one section used to say that the designation of areas on campus that are considered “public forums” or “free speech zones,” where organizations and individuals can engage in public address, would be decided on by the college president only. The same was true for the time designations for public address

“We felt that this puts too much power in one person’s hands,” Allen said. “[The regulation] was revised so that these [free speech] areas can be chosen by consultation with the Executive Committee.”

Allen admitted that the committee is concerned about “putting power in the hands of someone they don’t know,” now that the college is in the process of hiring a new president.

An additional public forum was also listed on the revised document. Aside from Plaza Vaquero, which was originally the only public forum on campus, the San Gabriel Plaza by the Milky Way Cafe was designated as a second free speech zone.

Another change was made to the section on distribution of free speech materials, which originally could be done only in free speech zones.

“We made it so that print materials can be placed on racks everywhere on campus so that they can easily be picked up by the students,” said Allen.

Restrictions will also be placed on the solicitation of donations by groups on campus who “solicit money while sharing beliefs,” Allen said. However, exceptions will be made for nonprofit organizations.

Another aspect of free speech that the revisions cover is the “means of amplification” students use to make speeches and announcements. The original policy stated that any sound amplification that “creates a noise or diversion that disturbs” was not allowed on campus.

The revisions allow for means of amplification as long as it is not done “in a manner that disrupts-instructional activities taking place at that time.”

Former regulations stating that posted materials needed to be stamped with its posting date from the Student Affairs office were changed to say that any materials posted on bulletin boards are subject to removal according to a cleaning schedule.

Any group, whether from inside or outside the college, is currently free to use campus facilities for the expression of beliefs and opinions, and the content is not regulated. The policy revisions will help “strike a balance between interests” represented on campus, Schlossman said.

“These policy changes preserve the right of people to express their opinion,” he said. “But we also have a responsibility to the campus community to make sure that free speech activities don’t interfere with normal campus activities.”