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.