Board Decision Overturned. We Have Been Heard…Maybe

Board Decision Overturned. We Have Been Heard…Maybe


April 10, 2012 – by Sebastian Garrett-Singh

On April 5th, a second public hearing was held at Broadway Performance Hall at SCCC to hear concerns about revisions to WAC code 132F-136 and the implementation of code 132F-142. These changes would directly limit First Amendment rights on Seattle Community College campuses. Nearly 200 people were in attendance, and many rallied against the proposal, ranging from teachers to Student Council representatives.

“We heard you…” a point made and reiterated in a letter from Chancellor Jill Wakefield. The letter outlines Wakefield’s removal of WAC 132F-142 due to the public outcry but will move forward with revising WAC 132F-136 (last revised 1984) to include: “hours of operation (section 14), camping (section 15), and incorporating Due Process to Trespassing (section 050).”

On the surface this appears to be a great victory for First Amendment advocates and the Seattle community. However, there are some inconsistencies and foreboding wording in WAC 132F-136. We have been heard…maybe.

Section Two states: “In general, the facilities of the college shall not be rented to, or used by, private or commercial organizations or associations, nor shall the facilities be rented to persons or organizations conducting programs for private gain.”

This section has already been compromised by the college as Balagan (a private nonprofit theatre company) operates The Erickson Theatre. Erickson was originally funded by private donors for the purpose of Seattle Central students. I am not sure what defines the “In general” but this section needs to be completely overhauled. If the SCCD cannot hold themselves accountable to their already implemented WAC, then how can they proclaim to follow their proposed amendments?

Section Seven states: “Handbills, leaflets, and similar materials except those which are commercial, obscene, or unlawful in character may be distributed only in designated areas on the campus where, and at times when, such distribution shall not interfere with the orderly administration of the college affairs or the free flow of traffic.”

This seems perfectly acceptable, but who is define to “obscene”?

Merriam-Webster defines obscene as “disgusting to the sense.” Now who is to decide what is disgusting to the senses? What is acceptable to some is “obscene” to others. Who decides here? According to the WAC, “The decision of the manager of campus security or designee will be the final decision of the college.”

Section 15 of the WAC, which addresses camping on school grounds, states: “Camping is defined to include sleeping, carrying on cooking activities, or storing personal belongings, for personal habitation, or the erection of tents or other shelters or structures used for purposes of personal habitation.” I don’t know if whoever wrote this has been to Seattle Central during finals week, but countless students pull all-nighters then take an hour between classes to rest on one of the 4th floor chairs. I once saw 5 students taking sanctuary during finals madness on campus. A New York judge ruled that “the First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not allow the city to prevent an orderly political protest from using public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression.”

So I guess if a student takes a nap on campus he will have to hold up a sign saying, “My nap is a political protest, leave me alone!”

Amendment One states that those who commit unlawful acts in regards to the WAC will be “requested by the campus president, or his or her designee, to leave the college property.”

Now I hardly see President Killpatrick coming out of his administrative castle to tell someone to leave, and I assume that his designees would be campus security. So my question is: “If campus security kicks you off the property, and you have to appeal to campus security, then how can this be unbiased?” Campus security cannot be delegated this responsibility.

The appeals process should run through an unbiased committee made up of faculty, students, and administrators; this is the only way to avoid a conflict of interest.

Section Three of the Amendment states: “When the college revokes the license or privilege of any person to be on college property, temporarily or for a stated period of time, that person may file a request for review of the decision with the manager of campus security within ten days of receipt of the trespass notice. The request must contain the reasons why the individual disagrees with the trespass notice.”

The proposed WAC amendments do not elaborate beyond this as to how this process would work. This is a glaring omission from the amendments, and must be addressed.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for campus security; they have always conducted themselves in a professional manner and have been courteous to students. They should however, not deal with administrative responsibilities, as they’re not administrators.

Wakefield in her letter speaks highly of supporting the First Amendment and of all the people that came out to voice their concern. I commend her for the acknowledgment, but it seems hollow and overdue. She notes that some WAC supporters voiced concerns that, “At times, members of outside groups have harassed our students and followed them across campus and to their classes.” Obviously, this is reprehensible, but is already covered by RCW 9a.46.110.

This is not the issue at hand: it is a red herring slipped in to defend the proposals. What we’re talking about is preserving our First Amendment rights, which has nothing to do with clearly criminal activities, such as stalking, or menacing students.

We have been heard…maybe.

Originally Published by New City Collegian:

2 Responses to Board Decision Overturned. We Have Been Heard…Maybe

  • stuckonearth says:

    Free speech is under attack on all fronts of our social system. We can legally be involuntarily detained without charge, our phone calls are being recorded, our e-mails are being collected, the internet is being censored and the administration for Seattle Community Colleges are using a totalitarian process to make first amendment rights decisions without allowing the students, faculty and the surrounding community a vote. Where is the democracy in this process?

    The new proposal suggested by the administration for Seattle Community Colleges suggests wanting to find a “balance” between education and first amendment rights. Just like Laurel Holliday stated in the Seattle Times, “the first amendment can not be ‘balanced’ with anything”.

    Not only is the administration for Seattle Community Colleges attacking free speech, but we need to also question the process. In a democracy the community members have power in the decisions that affect their lives. The administration for Seattle Community Colleges is not allowing faculty, students and community members to have a vote. This is a microcosm of the macrocosm that is, and has been, poisoning our communities. We need to change this paradigm, and we can start right here in our own community by supporting the faculty and students that are calling for our help. They supported us during our occupation and now its time to support them.

    Occupy Seattle demands….

    Our demands are as following… the administration for Seattle Community Colleges immediately becomes advocates of free speech and democracy by ending any attempt to restrict free speech, and the administration needs to change the Seattle Community College’s totalitarian processes that are currently in place

    If the administration does stop misusing their power by next public hearing (4/12/12 @ 4pm) than Occupy Seattle will immediately assembly a Seattle Community Colleges direct action working group to support our student and faculty allies.

    (i hope this will pass at GA, this is what i plan on bringing

  • Mark Taylor-Canfield says:

    Thanks to Sebastian for the editorial.

    My question is – when does the 120 day “emergency” period end? I suspect the May 17th meeting is being scheduled to make sure there is no lapse in the “no camping” rule. That seems to be the district’s main objective.

    Also – isn’t there a requirement for more public comment if the proposals are significantly revised? Is that why the board allowed a public comment period at the last meeting?