FREE SPEECH/FREE ASSEMBLY -- In an update on the South West College (SWC) crackdown on faculty support for student budget cut protesters, Peter Bonilla notes that a key target for reform is the policy that treats all but a small patch of the campus as a speech-free zone.
Equally crucial is that SWC's appalling "free speech patio" policy be
rescinded immediately. It exiles student expression to an area
representing to a tiny percentage of SWC's 156-acre campus. SWC even declares the rest of the campus is a non-public forum, which is blatantly unconstitutionalin
so doing, SWC has deemed the most traditional locations for free
speech, such as green areas on campus, are off-limits to free
expression. In fact, a rally taking place on November 13, barely an
hour after Alioto's e-mail dropping the investigation was circulated, took aim at this unconstitutional policy, as well as at the atmosphere of fear and intimidation pervading SWC.
The Sun reports that
the rally featured a diverse coalition of free speech defenders,
including Congressman Bob Filner, representatives from the ACLU-SD, and
Community Colleges Association President Ron Norton Reel. Absent from
the event was President Chopra, despite Filner's entreaties for his
presence. Of Chopra's absence Reel told the Sun, "I have a concern that one who wants to be called a leader is not here when we need some leadership."
FIRE holds out hope that we may soon see progress in opening up the SWC
campus to the free speech SWC is legally and morally obligated to
protect. A recent letter
from SWC attorney Jonathan A. Pearl to FIRE promises to "carefully
consider the issues and suggestions" we have raised regarding SWC's
unconstitutional policy. Pearl also states that "the College welcomes
any additional constructive input you wish to offer in this process."
Indeed, Alioto has invited FIRE to contribute its considerable
expertise to a task force aimed at re-evaluating the policy. (When it
comes to free speech, though, every minute the policy remains in place
is an irreparable harm to everyone on campus.)
Meanwhile, a fed-up Sun editorial staff has issued a "revolutionary call for action,"
calling for numerous policy and governance changes. In addition to
calling for an immediate repeal of SWC's free speech zone policy, the
board calls for Chopra's ouster, exhorting SWC's Board of Governors to
"help him find the door, one way or another."
As yet another Sun article relates, even the Board of Governors may not be immune
from the fallout: a community group has initiated a campaign to recall
five of the board members. Not among the targeted, notably, is Nick
Aguilar, who was present at the November 13 rally sporting a T-shirt reading "Support students, get suspended."