Regents OK Free-Speech Limits; Opponents Cry Foul

    The UC Board of Regents approved new regulations governing the conduct of nonaffiliates on university property during its September meeting, to the surprise of students and other members of the campus community concerned with free-speech infringement.

    The new regulations, which were released as a draft last May and discussed during a UCLA public hearing this June, impose restrictions on the activities of nonaffiliates, including a ban on all demonstrations or gatherings on UC property without prior university approval.

    Violation of the new policies will be punishable as a misdemeanor.

    Associated Students committee representative Carol-Irene Southworth, who has been working for the past year with a campus committee to review the proposed policy and create a UCSD alternative — regulating free speech, assembly and distribution of literature — was unaware that the regulations proposed by the UC Office of the President had been approved by the regents until after the vote had taken place.

    “As far as the policy being adopted, UCOP’s position has been that the students and affiliates do not need to be made aware of this proposal, because it cannot directly incriminate us as we are not nonaffiliates,” Southworth said.

    A.S. President Donna Bean was similarly critical of UCOP’s failure to inform the public of the proceedings.

    “Students were not made adequately aware of this timeline,” Bean said. “It’s also important to note that this entire thing went though the committee on finance. They are not as well-versed with the language [as other committees] and this is an obvious frustration.”

    UCOP spokesman Trey Davis said regents meetings are always publicly announced in advance and that the public had the opportunity to submit comments, which were then reviewed and taken into consideration by UCOP.

    “Written comments were also submitted by the public, faculty, students and other members of the UC community,” Davis said. “Several changes were made to the proposed regulations as a result of public comments that were received.”

    According to Davis, the regulations were considered by the finance committee as a facet of university operations, and that the entire board has always voted on issues only after being voted forward by a committee.

    Southworth expressed disappointment that certain wording in the policy was not revised, making the rules too vague and dangerously open to interpretation, thereby allowing administrators to stifle free speech and demonstrations.

    Concerned about the clause requiring nonaffiliates to receive prior approval before demonstrating, Southworth declared it not only unconstitutional, but also a potential threat to student freedom.

    “This rule could shut down student demonstrations as well,” Southworth said. “If the police or administrators have the authority to make everyone stop and prove they are affiliates [by asking them to show their ID cards], then they could delay and put down student rallies.”

    At this week’s A.S. Council meeting, Physical Sciences Senator Rishi Ghosh expressed apprehension that the regulations could threaten the ability of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — the union representing UC patient-care and service workers, who are currently engaged in negotiations with the university over wages and pensions — to effectively hold demonstrations.

    “Something that concerns us is the fact that the nonaffiliate policy will hurt the AFSCME community a lot, since they are technically considered nonaffiliates,” Ghosh said. “The laws that apply to public places do not apply to the university despite the fact that this is a public university and that this is a space.”

    AFSCME has held several public demonstrations on the UCSD campus over the past year.

    “AFSCME’s struggle makes this element of the policy especially relevant right now,” Southworth said, asserting that the policy’s approval is not the final word on free speech at UCSD and that the committee is more committed than ever to producing a working policy that cannot be abused.

    The campus speech policy committee will have its first meeting of the quarter on Oct. 7, where members will set up protocol and make decisions on the implementation of the new regulations, according to Associate Controller Sally Brainerd.

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