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CHS Pics | ‘Maybe we’re going to have to occupy a few more spaces’

(Images: CHS)

With a crowd approaching 200 and a line-up of students, representatives from the Occupy movement, and faculty filling in more than an hour and a half of public comment time, the Seattle Community Colleges board of trustees Thursday afternoon in the Broadway Performance Hall got an earful on their proposed changes that would place a strict rule-set around protests and public speech on the system’s three campuses. Well, not an earful, exactly — many from the board weren’t in attendance but officials said a summary of the hearing will be given to the trustees.

“I’m afraid the passion won’t come through in the [summary],” one faculty member who spoke in opposition to the proposals said during her time on the microphone. “Maybe we’re going to have to occupy a few more spaces,” she said.

The board proposals would limit the hours during which protest activities could occur, limit the duration, limit the number and size of signs, restrict activities to certain areas of campus and require permission from the school which has a long history as a gathering place for protests and rallies on Capitol Hill. We examined the proposal here last week. The proposals are the fruit of the board’s frustrations over the challenges encountered removing the Occupy Seattle camp from the Seattle Central campus last year. At the time, the campus mood on booting the Occupy camp was mixed with many at SCCC tiring of the conditions in the school’s south plaza. But the board’s proposals haven’t found the same level of support. The Associated Student Council opposes the new rules and the day’s speakers — and many of the SCCC students, faculty and staff — said the new rules would go too far.

“I agreed with removing the Occupy camp,” said one. “But this is too much.”

Others said the rules would bring even more protest to community college campuses. “So whoever votes this in,” said one student, “if I can’t appeal to your sense of conscious, let me appeal to your sense of self-preservation.”

Many speakers riffed on the ridiculousness of the single-sign limit by carrying multiple small signs in demonstration of the types of behavior that would run afoul of the proposed new rules.

A lawyer from the ACLU was also among the speakers. The Washington chapter posted this letter (PDF) sent to the trustees documenting what it says are likely violations of free speech laws in the proposed changes:

The proposed changes to WAC 132F pose serious constitutional problems, unduly burden free speech, and would unnecessarily restrict the vital exchange of ideas on a public college campus.

The proposals are set to be discussed at the board’s next meeting on April 12.

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11 thoughts on “CHS Pics | ‘Maybe we’re going to have to occupy a few more spaces’

  1. I went to school for a time in the University of Texas system at a time they implemented “free speech zones”. There is nothing free about being limited to a tiny footprint with limitations on content, timing and who can attend. Oh, and courts have smacked these rules down so hard in the past that they never get appealed too frequently by schools.

  2. I’m the student that is quoted above. The word “conscious” should be “conscience” — “So whoever votes this in: if I can’t appeal to your sense of conscience, let me appeal to your sense of self-preservation.”

    I truly mean this. I have heard no one speak in favor of abridging the freedom of speech on campus. The job of the President, in his own words (from his SCCC web page) is to “lead an urban, progressive, and outstanding institution that values and respects diversity.” He acknowledges this is a privilege.

    There is no place where the exchange of diverse ideas should be more free than on a college campus, and a failure to vehemently defend the exchange of those ideas is a betrayal of that privilege. President Killpatrick, and any other administrators who fail to stand up for the rights of peaceful dissent, of protest, and of exchange of ideas, should resign. Those who have remained silent, who have tacitly endorsed this attempt at curtailing such fundamentally American freedoms, must now find the backbone to stand up for what is right, or be forced from their positions of comfort so that real leaders can be found.

    Leading is not always a comfortable job, nor an easy one. In this case, although it may not be comfortable or easy for a President of the college to say “NO!” to the board of trustees, he can know that on his side he would have thousands of students and thousands more of the general public. There are only a handful of people who support these policies, and by a process of elimination, examining who speaks out against and who stays silent, we will soon know who these folks are.

  3. Yeah occupying a community college in Capitol Hill is the opposite of wall street, its just squatting. But limiting free speech at a school also seems like an equally terrible idea.

  4. The problem with saying there’s a difference between protests at Wall Street versus schools is that Seattle Central has long been the crucible for a whole list of protest movements in Seattle.

    In the 60s it was the launching pad for protests by numerous groups, from supporters of the Civil Rights Act and community members seeking an open campus and not a citadel to Asian-American students that felt they were being restricted from a quality education. The same in the 70s when civil rights organizations pushed back against efforts by anti-gay groups to strip housing and job protections.

    Anti-war protests, pro-choice protests, rallies for education and rallies for peace and hope. Protests outside, protests inside. All at Seattle Central.

    Occupy Wall Street is not the root of this movement, it’s the fruit.

  5. Most people are like the Mayor in the first Jaws movie. When the sheriff said to him “you will ignore this problem (the shark) till it swims up and bites you in the ass”

    The occupy people, homeless or professional agitators or whatever, are like the sheriff in that movie.

    Only when unemployment is like Greece, 50% or so, will you take to the streets and demand change, or will you take your dole of bread,Internet and Kool-aid, like good slaves.

  6. One student spoke “if I can’t appeal to your sense of conscious, let me appeal to your sense of self-preservation.”

    I think it is occupy that needed to appeal to their sense of self-preservation. The movement in Seattle is dead. The movement did not die because people didn’t agree or lost passion in the issues of wealthy inequality the movement died because of the thoughtless way it was communicated. ‘Occupying’ by its very nature is disruptive and destructive, and sending thousands of dollars in bills to SCCC does not promote the message. Occupy a big-bank not an institution whose mission is to help lower income people.

    I’m also sick of hearing the excuse that SCCC has been a rallying point for social issues for years. It doesn’t matter, the image you’ve created is a bunch of idiots trashing and partying on the schools south lawn. Face reality.

  7. RE i dont agree with occupy wall street taking over schools. interupting classes and peoples education is not the same as occupying wall street.
    Comment by charley tuna

    Wow, you watch a lot of main stream TV, don’t you Charlie? Occupy Seattle never took over a school (the plaza is mixed use public and private), nor did #OWS. Occupy Seattle never interupted a class — *students* may have interrupted their classes but that is part of education. *Teachers* invited Occupy Seattle to the campus.

    These efforts to limit civil liberties should be a wake-up call to all Amricans.

    (sorry if I dble post. computer issues)

  8. I agree. The proposals before the SCCC Board are a limitation of free speech, yes, but very reasonable and mild changes. Demonstrations will still occur, as they always have, but things like the OS encampment will be prevented. It is a very well-established legal principle that free speech is not absolute.

    Those that oppose these proposed changes remind me of the NRA fanatics, who automatically object to any changes at all in gun control laws, no matter how reasonable, because they claim that any change is a “slippery slope.”

  9. Out of curiosity: is the plaza mixed use because we say it is mixed use, or did the college establish it as a public easement at some point. If it is a public easement, there is no right to camp on public property as has been legally upheld. If it is private property (as colleges/universities/schools are), then it is at the discretion of the supervising entity.

    The college should not limit the right to protest during the day in the plaza, so those plans are going a bit far. However, they have every right to ban protests after a certain time. Parks close, and you can be arrested for being there after that time (Volunteer, anyone?). Colleges close too. If you’re there after a certain time, you can and should be arrested for trespassing.

    Furthermore, a college should not be burdened with the costs of supporting protests. What should they be required to provide? Power? PA systems? Trash removal? Portapotties? All other public gatherings in Seattle are required to cover their own costs. I’m just sayin’…