Student Input Imperative in Free Speech Battle

    Though the comment period is now over regarding changes to
    UCSD’s free speech policy, the future of student freedom on campus remains
    nebulous. Input on the new guidelines was overwhelmingly negative — over half
    of respondents were against any form of regulation. The American Civil
    Liberties Union’s San Diego chapter has also jumped in the fray, concerned
    about the proposal’s legality
    particularly the section dictating that students who assemble would need to
    obtain permits in advance, which would illustrate prior restraint on free
    speech. Now the university is forming a revision committee charged with
    addressing the comments and revising the proposal to accommodate students’
    right to free speech while protecting their study environment.

    There is no doubt that the current proposal dangerously
    ignores student freedom. The changes transform a fair and effective policy,
    which has functioned for decades, into a tyrannical set of restrictions
    prohibiting even the most innocent of gatherings. By severely limiting the
    times and places people can congregate — even demanding that a group of 10 or
    more acquire a reservation to meet — the changes would be catastrophic to
    UCSD’s already-crippled campus livelihood. Meanwhile, the document’s cloudy
    language regarding enforcement and reservation rejection leaves the door open
    for administrative abuse.

    The question now is what can be done to update the policy,
    while protecting and promoting free speech. The committee, which will have 16
    members selected by the A.S. Council, Graduate Student Association, Academic
    Senate, Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Steven W. Relyea and former Vice
    Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson, needs to listen carefully to
    the dissent, and work diligently to consider the views of the over 90
    respondents completely against the policy.

    The administration has been characteristically secretive
    about its specific motives for the changes, denying that religious activists or
    last year’s Dimensions of Culture debate influenced the proposal. This,
    however, leads students to be rightfully wary of the extreme measures. The
    committee should participate in an open dialogue with university officials to
    better understand their concerns, and then incorporate that input with student
    comments to create a draft that accommodates UCSD’s research and study emphasis
    without impeding on students’ First Amendment rights.

    The fact that the administration would present such an
    inherently oppressive draft, regardless of its motivation, speaks volumes about
    its disrespect for the student voice. The committee needs to carefully
    counterbalance this with meticulous consideration of every possible implication
    that the final changes present. The group has the hugely important duty of
    guarding freedom in an instance that will impact students for decades to come.

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