Campus Speech Policy Debuts for Public Input

Two years after uproar from student and civil-rights organizations forced university officials to withdraw a proposal for a more restrictive UCSD speech policy — released quietly during finals week in Spring Quarter 2007 — administrators proposed a new, milder version of the current 1981-drafted policy over campuswide e-mail on Oct. 1. In the e-mail, Vice chancellors Penny Rue and Steven Relyea attached the revised policy and requested feedback by Dec. 1.

Two of three student representatives who served on the committee, undergraduates James Baldwin and Erin Brodwin, announced the draft’s release at the A.S. Council meeting last night.

When a councilmember asked if Baldwin and Brodwin were happy with the new policy, both expressed that some concessions had been made in compromising with the 10 to 15 university officials on the committee.

“It was the best we could do in the committee; there were serious negotiations made,” Baldwin said.

Due to expansion of the campus, the policy features an updated list of areas in which the use of electronically amplified sound is permitted, within the hours of 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — reduced from a former slot of 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and additionally including all areas within 150 feet of university buildings, but lifting all restrictions on the Student Center Hump, Price Center Plaza and Library. Chalking is also newly authorized, though restricted to surfaces exposed to weather elements.

Committee member and Director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Tony Valladolid said the committee hopes to review public commentary and put the new policy into effect by the beginning of Winter Quarter.

UCSD’s current policy states that free speech can only be practiced in areas “at least 25 feet from the entrances/exits of campus buildings and parking lots.” In contrast, the new draft allows un-electronically amplified expression anywhere on campus — given there is no “unreasonable” interference with university business, other persons or the environment.

According to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary Ratcliffe, who also served on the committee, administrative officials in charge of each amplified sound zone will have ultimate jurisdiction over expressive activity within that zone, regardless of the policy.

However, Ratcliffe expressed that general enforcement of speech on campus will be much simpler than in the past, with new “objective standards,” such as a volume limit of 90 decibels, that will eliminate the possibility of content-based bias.

The university’s spring 2007 proposal for a new “draconian” policy — according to Benjamin Balthaser, the graduate student representative on the committee — would have given the university exclusive control over speech on campus. In response, in Fall Quarter 2008, Balthaser and a group of fellow student activists drafted their ideal version of the policy.

Though university officials on the committee have said the new policy still retains much of the students’ original version, Balthasar disagrees.

“The student policy is very simple: an open campus,” he said.

Nonetheless, Balthaser stressed that the student-administrator collaborative draft is an improvement from the 2007 proposal.

“Students should recognize that we won an important victory,” he said.

The final draft — titled the Policy on Speech, Advocacy and Distribution of Literature on University Grounds — will apply exclusively to students, faculty and staff at UCSD. The speech policy regulating nonaffiliates is overseen by the UC Board of Regents and applies to all UC campuses.

Sally Brainerd, chair of the committee that drafted the policy, could not be reached for comment. She will be fielding all public commentary until Dec. 1, which can be sent to [email protected].

Balthaser expressed that students should be more concerned with the nonaffiliate speech policy, which states that those not affiliated with the university may not practice public expression on campuses without the consent of the regents.

Currently, a separate committee, also composed of UCSD students and administrators, is tasked with the duty of adapting the regents’ policy to the San Diego campus. Student representative John Condello said he is frustrated with the progress of the committee.

“If I were to make changes to the document, I would throw the whole rotten piece of legislation in the trash and simply apply the affiliate free speech policy (which turned out pretty decently) to nonaffiliates,” Condello said in an e-mail.

Readers can contact Xue Mao at [email protected].

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