Free speech expands its borders


Students were encouraged to sound off on the “Free Speech Wall” set up by Young Americans for Liberty during Club Rush on Sept. 16 – 17. (Melissa Peña/Clarion)

By Cameron Wisdom | Editor in Chief

The Citrus College administration declared a moratorium on specific administrative procedures on Sept. 11 that would immediately be enacted until further notice.

In an email sent to campus employees, Arvid Spor, Ed.D, vice president of student services and interim vice president of academic affairs, announced that certain provisions of the three administrative procedures cited in an ongoing lawsuit would not be enforced.

The moratorium comes as a result of pre-trial negotiations with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, known commonly as FIRE, in an effort to avoid continued litigation against the college on behalf of Citrus College student Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle.

FIRE filed the lawsuit in July on Sinapi-Riddle’s behalf in accordance with the plaintiff’s allegations that enforcement of college’s specific administrative procedures violated his First Amendment rights.

“The reason for the moratorium is that both sides got together and said ‘Lets talk’,” Spor said. “It’s a way of interjecting a pause in the legal process.”

Spor explained that moratorium has been put in place as both parties in the lawsuit continue to determine whether or not they can find a compromise outside of the courtroom.

“This is sort of a way of saying ‘Let’s take a look at this, let’s see if we can find a halfway point ideally’,” Spor said “It’s not exactly everything one side or the other wants.”

The suspended administrative procedures include AP 3900 “Time, Place, and Manner”; AP 5450 “Student Clubs and Organizations”; and AP 7102 “Prohibition of Harassment: Students and Employees.”

In his e-mail, Spor explained that the District “will cease enforcing provisions of Citrus College’s AP 3900 that limit the exercise of spontaneous expressive activities to an area designated as the ‘Free Speech Area’.”

The administration will continue to enforce AP 3900 within 25 feet of doorways opening to outdoor areas of campus, all indoor areas, and any time free speech expressions disrupt the normal educational process.

“We pretty much left open any of the sidewalks, grassy areas, and parking lots for people to talk about whatever it is they want to talk about,” Spor said. “In general, we’re not against free speech. We just don’t want it to interfere with the educational process or our operational process.”

Representatives from FIRE and Citrus College plan to reconvene in approximately one month to determine whether or not the moratorium is sufficient to avoid  advancement of the litigation.

“The lawsuit isn’t pulled or revoked, but at this time it isn’t moving forward either,” Spor said. “If FIRE agrees to the changes we made under the moratorium, that could end the lawsuit.”

According to Spor, most community colleges turn to the California League of Community Colleges to provide legal advice on administrative procedures.

“Basically any time that any law or regulation changes at the federal or state level, the lawyers for the CLCC go through and look through all the board policies and administrative procedures throughout the state and make suggested changes to them,” Spor said. “We were following the same suggestions recommended to the other 111 colleges in the state.”

Citrus student Gabriel Nadales is the founder and current vice president of the campus chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty, a national group that emphasizes libertarian values and application of the Constitution in American government.

“The policies which were put on hold were a clear impediment to the freedom of expression of Citrus College students,” Nadales said. “While it is regrettable that it took a lawsuit against the college for them to be looked at with severe scrutiny, they were bound to be contested.”

Nadales was asked if he believes that a person exercising their right to free speech in a classroom setting would interfere with the educational process.

“It depends on the context. If the class calls for discussion, then no,” Nadales said “Higher education is dependent on free speech. With out free speech comes indoctrination. That being said, if the class doesn’t call for discussion, then yes.”

“Speech that interferes with the educational process is already banned. No one wants to hear why you voted for Obama in a math class,” Nadales said.

Recalling instances in the past where protesting groups on campus expressed themselves through methods such as shouting through megaphones and displaying large posters with photos of aborted fetuses to all passers-by, Spor reflected on the value of freedom of speech despite what some interpret as abuse of that right.

“I think free speech is very important to our culture. That’s what many other countries love about America,” Spor said. “But that shouldn’t mean that just because someone has freedom of speech that they should get in my face and spew a bunch of garbage about their beliefs, hoping that because they speak louder or that they have pictures, that it’s going to change my mind.”

“This is sort of a way of saying ‘Let’s take a look at this, let’s see if we can find a halfway point ideally’,” Spor said. “It’s not exactly everything one side or the other wants.”

The suspended administrative procedures include AP 3900 “Time, Place, and Manner”; AP 5450 “Student Clubs and Organizations”; and AP 7102 “Prohibition of Harassment: Students and Employees.”

In his email, Spor explained that the district “will cease enforcing provisions of Citrus College’s AP 3900 that limit the exercise of spontaneous expressive activities to an area designated as the “Free Speech Area’.”

The administration will continue to enforce AP 3900 within 25 feet of doorways opening to outdoor areas of campus, all indoor areas, and any time free speech expressions disrupt the normal educational process.

“We pretty much left open any of the sidewalks, grassy areas, and parking lots for people to talk about whatever it is they want to talk about,” Spor said. “In general, we’re not against free speech. We just don’t want it to interfere with the educational process or our operational process.”

Representatives from FIRE and Citrus College plan to reconvene in approximately one month to determine whether or not the moratorium is sufficient to avoid  advancement of the litigation.

“The lawsuit isn’t pulled or revoked, but at this time it isn’t moving forward either,” Spor said. “If FIRE agrees to the changes we made under the moratorium, that could end the lawsuit.”

According to Spor, most community colleges turn to the California League of Community Colleges to provide legal advice on administrative procedures.

“Basically any time that any law or regulation changes at the federal or state level, the lawyers for the CLCC go through and look through all the board policies and administrative procedures throughout the state and make suggested changes to them,” Spor said. “We were following the same suggestions recommended to the other 111 colleges in the state.”

Citrus student Gabriel Nadales is the founder and current vice president of the campus chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty, a national group that emphasizes libertarian values and application of the Constitution in American government.

“The policies which were put on hold were a clear impediment to the freedom of expression of Citrus College students,” Nadales said. “While it is regrettable that it took a lawsuit against the college for them to be looked at with severe scrutiny, they were bound to be contested.”

Nadales was asked if he believes that a person exercising their right to free speech in a classroom setting would interfere with the educational process.

“It depends on the context – if the class calls for discussion, then no,” Nadales said “Higher education is dependent on free speech. Without free speech comes indoctrination. That being said, if the class doesn’t call for discussion, then yes.”

“Speech that interferes with the educational process is already banned. No one wants to hear why you voted for Obama in a math class,” Nadales said.

Daniel Celebretti, vice president of ASCC, spoke on behalf of student government on the moratorium.

“I have not had an opportunity to review the policy changes in their entirety,” Celebretti said. “However, I am glad to see steps being taken to review these policies.

Recalling instances in the past where protesting groups on campus expressed themselves through methods such as shouting through megaphones and displaying large posters with photos of aborted fetuses to all passers-by, Spor reflected on the value of freedom of speech despite what some interpret as abuse of that right.

“I think free speech is very important to our culture. That’s what many other countries love about America,” Spor said. “But that shouldn’t mean that just because someone has freedom of speech that they should get in my face and spew a bunch of garbage about their beliefs, hoping that because they speak louder or that they have pictures, that it’s going to change my mind.”

 

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