Committee Finalizes Speech Policy Revisions

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    Readers can contact Simone Wilson at [email protected].

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    The committee formed in Fall Quarter 2007 to revise and combine the UCSD speech and distribution-of-literature policies held its final meeting last Wednesday. After arguing through a few details, its members declared the draft finished and ready for public release.

    The new policy draft is at least three times the size of the two existing policies combined. Changes include an 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. time slot in which the use of amplified electronic sound is restricted to an updated list of zones across campus, streamlined from the draft’s list of arbitrary slots two weeks ago but still cutting one half hour from the existing policy. The draft also establishes a volume limit of 90 decibels for any amplified sound; permission to use chalk as a form of expression on university property, which is currently not allowed; and a preamble largely preserved from a speech-policy proposal created by students last fall.

    ‘This speech policy is designed to be broad, flexible and to acknowledge the historic significance of free speech, while also preserving the research, teaching and public service mission of the university,’ the preamble’s closing line reads.

    At an emergency meeting three weeks ago, students and administrators on the committee agreed it was important to release the draft immediately for public comment. Student representatives said they thought it essential to open the public-input period while campus hype surrounding the committee was still active, fearing it might die out over the summer.

    At the same time, committee members said it was important to avoid ‘mdash; if only by a few weeks ‘mdash; a repeat of the 2007 speech-policy proposal’s chaotic finals-week release. Those revisions were immediately attacked by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Academic Senate and student activists for being draconian.

    But by the end of the May 6 meeting, UCSD Police Department Lt. Dave Rose and Campus Counsel Dan Park were still concerned over language that would require all enforcement to be enacted ‘in a manner that minimizes the impact on expressive activity’ ‘mdash; already changed two weeks prior from the students’ original ‘in the least restrictive manner possible’ ‘mdash; because it would be difficult for police to interpret.

    Rose and Park told fellow committee members that from a legal perspective, ‘minimal’ impact could technically be defined as no impact at all, and overall impact on free expression is difficult to predict.

    A.S.-appointed student representative Erin Brodwin said that ‘minimum’ does not necessarily mean zero, at which point Committee Chair Sally Brainerd pulled up the Cambridge Online Dictionary definition of ‘minimum’ and ‘minimal’ on the overhead projector.

    Finally, though graduate student representative Benjamin Balthaser looked somewhat defeated (he had originally resisted any change from ‘in the least restrictive manner possible’), the committee agreed to instead use ‘in a manner that minimizes the limitation on expressive activity,’ which Rose said would be a very straightforward requirement for police to follow.

    Brainerd proposed that ‘mdash; though the public-comment period will not officially begin until the first week of Fall Quarter 2009 ‘mdash; Balthaser should present the finished draft to the Graduate Student Association, and Brodwin and fellow undergraduate representative James Baldwin should present it to the A.S. Council for preliminary review. The public comment period will extend until the end of the upcoming Fall Quarter, and the committee will consider all input during Winter Quarter 2010, Brainerd said.

    Once those final changes have been made, Vice Chancellors Penny Rue and Steven W. Relyea will approve and release the policy.

    The meeting closed with one final add-on to the ‘chalking’ clause: ‘Environmentally soun
    d clean-up is encouraged.’

    View the full text of the policy here.

    Readers can contact Simone Wilson at [email protected].

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