DOS Policies Uphold Free Speech

Almost one year after a cardboard wall constructed by the Society of Arab Students was burned down and a mural erected by the Tagalog and Pilipino Studies Kollective was vandalized, the issue of hate crimes at UC Irvine is still a much-discussed topic. The final session of the three-part ‘Shades of Hate: A Hate Crime Series,’ focusing on the community impact and response to hate crimes, will be held on April 25, between 3 to 4 p.m. at the Cross-Cultural Center.
The event is sponsored by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the Cross-Cultural Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center.
Dean of Students Sally Peterson recently lamented the occurrence of hate crimes.
‘Half the battle of any of these things is that the people who do hateful things are cowards and don’t want to be known,’ Peterson said.
Referring to vandalized printed materials, she added, ‘All we can do is take a picture of it and log it as a hate [crime].’
The occurrence of hate crimes on campus has led to a broader discussion of free speech at UCI. The boundary between what can and cannot be protected as free speech has come to a head in the past two years.
Students and several public interest groups expressed concern when, during Welcome Week 2003, the College Republicans’ affirmative action bake sale was halted by the dean of students for breaching the university antidiscrimination clause.
Doughnuts were sold at varying prices to customers according to their race or ethnicity.
‘Once you’ve engaged in the business of selling, that becomes discriminatory behavior, and that we can regulate,’ Peterson said.
The issue was resolved in a second bake sale during the spring quarter 2004, when the bake sale banner was changed to read ‘suggested price.’
Last week, the DOS office received several complaints when a man holding a large placard vilifying Muslims engaged several UCI affiliates in heated debate.
‘If students don’t like what he’s saying they should just keep walking. They should ignore him,’ said Peterson. ‘Unless he comes up and makes you an unwilling audience, he has the right to do it.’
Peterson reminded the man of his right to free speech.
‘Randy, the executive associate dean of students, and I went up [to him] and said, ‘Look, you’re gonna have to calm it down, but you do have a right to be here,” she said. ‘But people don’t have to give him the time of day.’
Restrictions on free speech at UCI fall primarily under the ‘Time, place and manner’ clause in the Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations, and Students, the official UC- and campuswide guidebook to rules and implementation.
According to Jeffrey Cole, director of scheduling and conference services, students used to be required to reserve an area called the ‘free speech zone,’ which is the area now called Anteater Plaza. However, reservation of this area and others on campus can be made, but not required.
UCI’s policies on free speech were widely questioned by ASUCI two year ago, particularly the issue regarding scheduling.
Christina Gagnier, who was then ASUCI executive vice president, commented, ‘I just think it’s unfair that the whole campus is supposed to be a free speech zone, but they have areas they want you to be in.’
Little has changed since then. According to Peterson, the policies are currently being revised by UCI to implement and specify existing UC-wide policies.
Currently, there are no designated free speech areas. Instead, there are ‘preferred speech areas,’ according to Peterson and Cole, which include the flagpole and Anteater Plaza.
Peterson described the benefits of notifying the dean of students in advance of public speeches, protests and other mass gatherings.
‘If a topic is such that it’s significantly controversial, and you’d be concerned with your personal safety, we would provide you with personal security because we don’t want your free speech right abridged,’ Peterson said. ‘We even provide stanchions. … We had an occasion where a student group had a speaker get up and an opposing group came and charged the speaker, took the mic and basically took [the speaker’s] right to free speech.’
Another concern Peterson raised related to non-UCI affiliates.
‘Often times, the people who are not affiliated [with the university] are our biggest concern, because we have very limited jurisdiction over them,’ Peterson said.