|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, March 1, 2004
San Gabriel Valley Tribune 3-1-04
College creates new guidelines for free speech
GLENDORA -- After a lawsuit on the issue last spring, Citrus College officials have completed new guidelines for free speech on campus that allow public demonstrations campuswide, but set limits on noise.
Officials at the 12,000-student community college designed an "Expressive Activities Policy and Regulation," which does not limit the areas where students can have demonstrations.
A former college policy employed "free speech zones" for rallies.
"The new policy takes the position that as long as you're not being disruptive, you can do all of the speaking and holding up of placards that you want to as long as it doesn't interfere with college operations," said Arnold Rollin, director of student activities.
Demonstrators could be asked to quiet down if noise exceeds a certain level.
"If the sound exceeds 60 decibels, we will go out and tell (the demonstrator) we've had a complaint," said Rollin. "We will do this a couple of times and if they refuse to comply, then they are disrupting the procedures of the college."
Citrus College purchased a decibel meter to monitor sound levels for demonstrations, Rollin said.
The free speech issue at Citrus College entered the national spotlight when student Chris Stevens sued the college last spring over regulations that restricted student demonstrations to certain areas of campus.
During the lawsuit, the college suspended its old policy, Rollin said. Additionally, Stevens' attorney's fees of $24,500 were paid in a settlement.
The nonprofit group FIRE (Freedom of Individual Rights in Education) of Philadelphia, which latched on to Stevens' cause, is now launching a push for greater freedom of speech and other civil liberties on college campuses.
FIRE announced Thursday that by the end of March, it expects the nation's largest association of campus judicial administrators to agree on a resolution to help ensure civil liberties are respected on campus.
In a prepared statement, FIRE said the resolution has already been approved by the board of directors of the Association for Student Judicial Affairs. Now the group's membership-at-large is voting on it.
The resolution states that "policies, rules and procedures that are vague and over-broad in limiting student expression are unconstitutional." It asks all institutions to "review policies, rules and procedures regularly to ensure that they do not impose illegal or unconstitutional limits on student speech and expression."
Jeanne Hamilton, vice president of student services, who chaired a 15-member committee, said she believes Citrus College has a much better policy.
Free-speech issues are a concern at many colleges in the state, Hamilton said. Citrus College recently presented its new policy during a state community college administrators conference in Los Angeles, Hamilton said.
"This has been a great lesson in First Amendment rights," Hamilton said.
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