Board proposes public forum limits

A proposed change to South Puget Sound Community College’s Washington Administrative Codes (WACs) is causing students and faculty members to join together against quick action in amending the WAC.

This proposed WAC change would limit the number of public forums on campus.

A public rules hearing was held during an SPSCC Board of Trustees meeting where students and faculty members gave testimonies about the proposed changes to WAC 132X-30-020.

All oral and written testimony requested the Board to either stop the proposed changes or to postpone voting on the amendment to the WAC until they collect more student and faculty input.

“We would like to poll students, faculty, and staff, and see how everyone feels about this and report back to you,” said Katherine Clancy, psychology professor, representing the faculty senate.

“The changes are primarily an update in language,” said Vice President for Student Services Rhonda Coats.

Several students and staff members spoke out against the proposed amendment however.

“It goes against the conception of [SPSCC] being a place of higher learning. Trying to generate new ideas with our student body and trying to become leaders; this will restrict that,” said student Dean Hobbs.

According to Hobbs students would need to hold the board and college president accountable.

Professor David Hyde said he gave his testimony on behalf of the students as well as some of the faculty.

“While it’s true that the courts have allowed time, place, and manner restrictions on speech…the institutions can only do that when there’s a compelling public interest or strong need for that,” said Hyde when giving his testimony.

Hyde believes that this amendment severely restricts students’ right to free speech and their right to assemble in protest or rally.

The proposed changes would limit public forums to the outside area between buildings 31, 32, and 33 and the outside area behind buildings 27 and 28. Students and faculty could only assemble as part of a college department, office, or club.

Also, public forums would not be open for use during the first and final week of the quarter, advising day, campus event days, and the two weeks before the start of the quarter.

Hyde spoke about the variety of student speech on campus including the rally for the walkout, protest cuts to higher education, and students passing out bibles or yellow ribbons to support U.S. military troops.

According to Hyde some forms of student speech may be less well receipted by others on campus, however no demonstration can be treated differently than another and this amendment would need to be applied to all demonstrations outside the designated public forums.

This makes the amended WAC overly restrictive according to Hyde.

“The concern would be that if you didn’t limit those types of statements but you limited other types of statements it would move from the constitutionally okay notion,” said Hyde.

According to Hyde this would cause their limitations to move into “ambiguous areas.”

Kevin Asman spoke on behalf of the faculty union to explain the organization’s worry about the section of the amendment addressing discipline for faculty members who did not follow the new rules.

The faculty union may demand to negotiate the details of faculty discipline with the board if the amendment is passed.