Students to Lead Free-Speech Revision

    Members of the Justice House of Prayer proselytize on Library Walk. Three student representatives will be given the opportunity to redraft a controversial policy regulating free speech on campus. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    Following strong opposition and allegations of
    unconstitutionality, the committee charged with reviewing the university’s
    free-speech policy revision decided at its Jan. 10 meeting to scratch the controversial
    draft policy and await a new student-crafted version.

    Over 170 people commented on the revision, with over half of
    respondents voicing protest against any type of regulation that outlines
    permitted forms of expression.

    In November, an eight-page letter was sent to UCSD by the
    San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, contending that 10
    sections of the policy were unconstitutional.

    The 16-member revision committee, which consists of
    administrators, faculty, two A.S. councilmembers and one representative from
    the Graduate Student Association, met for the first time on Jan. 10 to
    introduce new members, review the revision’s history and determine a timetable
    for tasks it needs to accomplish this year, according to committee Chair Sally
    Brainerd.

    The committee acknowledged the importance of supporting
    expression and advocacy on campus, and agreed to completely rewrite the new
    policy without being wedded to the previous draft, Brainerd said.

    “The committee is approaching the development of the policy
    from a blank slate,” she said. “Some sections of the policy could be removed
    altogether and others could be retained. It is too early to tell.”

    The two undergraduate student members, Tara Ramanathan and
    Carol-Irene Southworth, along with graduate student Benjamin Balthaser,
    volunteered to write a new proposal with the help of various student
    organizations, including the Coalition for Social Justice, which is composed of
    14 student groups aimed at activism and upholding social justice on campus.

    “[The students] had the largest complaints against the
    revision so we are putting together a rough proposal,” Southworth said. “We
    have ideas so we will write them down.”

    The committee also decided to investigate the existing
    free-speech policies adopted by other universities and recent court cases
    regarding the subject, Brainerd said.

    Committee members oppose several areas of the current
    policy, according to Ramanathan, including the section prohibiting gatherings
    of groups of 10 or more people without a reservation, limiting the political
    activity of faculty and staff and holding one person legally and financially
    accountable for any demonstration that occurs. The ACLU labeled all of these
    portions unconstitutional.

    “The proposed revisions were neither constitutional or
    just,” Southworth said. “The current policy that is in place has problems … but
    we are looking forward to working with it and creating a policy that works and
    upholds our constitutional freedoms.”

    The student proposal will be presented at the next committee
    meeting, scheduled for Jan. 31. The committee will also discuss and affirm
    values that should be upheld in the policy, according to Brainerd.

    “The policy on free speech is a sensitive issue and will be
    scrutinized both internally and externally,” Brainerd said. “For that reason,
    the committee agreed that the first step would be to determine if the values of
    individual members would match the values that are required to develop and
    issue a policy on free speech.”

    The committee is hoping to release a draft for campus review
    by May and finalize the policy before the end of the academic year, Ramanathan
    said.

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