FREE SPEECH/FREE ASSEMBLY -- In an update on the South West College (SWC) crackdown on faculty support for student budget cut protesters, Peter Bonilla notes that a key target for reform is the policy that treats all but a small patch of the campus as a speech-free zone.
Equally crucial is that SWC's appalling "free speech patio" policy be rescinded immediately. It exiles student expression to an area representing to a tiny percentage of SWC's 156-acre campus. SWC even declares the rest of the campus is a non-public forum, which is blatantly unconstitutional—in so doing, SWC has deemed the most traditional locations for free speech, such as green areas on campus, are off-limits to free expression. In fact, a rally taking place on November 13, barely an hour after Alioto's e-mail dropping the investigation was circulated, took aim at this unconstitutional policy, as well as at the atmosphere of fear and intimidation pervading SWC.
The Sun reports that the rally featured a diverse coalition of free speech defenders, including Congressman Bob Filner, representatives from the ACLU-SD, and Community Colleges Association President Ron Norton Reel. Absent from the event was President Chopra, despite Filner's entreaties for his presence. Of Chopra's absence Reel told the Sun, "I have a concern that one who wants to be called a leader is not here when we need some leadership."
FIRE holds out hope that we may soon see progress in opening up the SWC campus to the free speech SWC is legally and morally obligated to protect. A recent letter from SWC attorney Jonathan A. Pearl to FIRE promises to "carefully consider the issues and suggestions" we have raised regarding SWC's unconstitutional policy. Pearl also states that "the College welcomes any additional constructive input you wish to offer in this process." Indeed, Alioto has invited FIRE to contribute its considerable expertise to a task force aimed at re-evaluating the policy. (When it comes to free speech, though, every minute the policy remains in place is an irreparable harm to everyone on campus.)
Meanwhile, a fed-up Sun editorial staff has issued a "revolutionary call for action," calling for numerous policy and governance changes. In addition to calling for an immediate repeal of SWC's free speech zone policy, the board calls for Chopra's ouster, exhorting SWC's Board of Governors to "help him find the door, one way or another."
As yet another Sun article relates, even the Board of Governors may not be immune from the fallout: a community group has initiated a campaign to recall five of the board members. Not among the targeted, notably, is Nick Aguilar, who was present at the November 13 rally sporting a T-shirt reading "Support students, get suspended."