Board of Trustees revises public forum policy

The college Board of Trustees made revisions at the March hearing to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 132X-10) policy that limits public forum.

According to the policy, groups not sponsored by a recognized school organization may only gather between buildings 22 and 27, and near the pond by Building 31.

The revisions clarify the definition of interchangeable terms “sponsored” or “recognized” groups versus “affiliated” groups. Sponsored groups are allowed to sponsor, or invite, speakers; these groups are allowed to use whichever facilities they like.

This changed previous term “chartered” to “sponsored”.

“This is the most correct term to use, as the organization must be a part of the school,” said Rhonda Coats, vice president for student services.

The last major alteration is the change from use of the building to use of the facility. The entire school facility is affected, not just the buildings.

Vice President for Administrative Services, Nancy McKinney said, “Students were complaining about having to walk through protesters in order to get to class.” According to McKinney, protesters acted too aggressively, and students were exposed to material they did not want.

The board decided that it was time for a policy update, as they had not updated it since 2000.

Coats said, “All sections of the college’s WAC were needing updating.” Coats said that several of the sections had outdated and incorrect titles.

As a result of the Occupy movement a “no camping” policy was added. “[The policy] had always been implied, but the rule wasn’t in writing until now,” McKinney said.

According to McKinney, the public gathering policy was not a result of Occupy protesters, but of other political and religious protesters. These protesters included a pro-life organization that showed graphic photos of “abortions” and an organization that compared the president to Hitler.

McKinney said that many students were uncomfortable with these organizations going up to students and handing out materials.

McKinney said, “I think this policy is a great compromise. It allows free speech, but it doesn’t infringe on students. It’s a win for all parties.”

BRICK member Kayla Perez was at the meeting where the original policy was presented. She was informed of the meeting two hours before it started. Perez wondered why these Board of Trustees meetings weren’t advertised more. BRICK was informed of the meeting last minute.

“Students aren’t able to go to these meetings if we don’t hear about them,” she said.

Coats said that agenda and information packets are sent to The Sounds Newspaper and the ASB President.

“We’re concerned about this policy imposing on students’ ability of free speech,” Perez said.

Although Perez understands that some of the material that protesters have shown made students uncomfortable, she said, “The first amendment was written so that people’s opinions would be heard. There’s no choice but to extend that right to everyone.”

Perez said, “I would let people demonstrate and hand things out. It’s difficult to decide and justify where you draw the line,” Perez said. If the policy had been in play at the time of the Nov. 28 walkout, the event may have been limited because it was not on behalf of any school organization. Perez said that the walkout was very important to students, and that they needed to know about it. What the legislature does regarding education affects students greatly.

Perez said, “This policy doesn’t foster free speech. It also doesn’t favor critical or free thinking.”

The next Board of Trustees meeting will occur from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 8 in Building 25 in the boardroom.