It seems Peralta Community College District has not learned its lesson. On the heels of settling an unfathomable case involving the punishment of two students who dared pray for an ill faculty member, Peralta is considering a new speech zone policy. Our readers know that while creating a speech zone sounds supportive of the First Amendment, it is actually discouraging because it limits student speech and can result in the absurd—relegating student speech to ten square feet of campus.
Although Peralta has not published the proposed policy yet, reports claim that the proposed speech zone will limit free speech to the main quad on three campuses and to a student lounge on a fourth campus. According to the Contra Costa Times:
The proposed rules handed out at Wednesday’s meeting would limit speakers to the main quads at Laney, Merritt College and the College of Alameda, and to a student lounge at Berkeley City College. Speakers would be required to reserve the space at least three business days in advance, and all fliers posted on campus bulletin boards would need to include English translations.
Although the proposal notes that administrators may not prevent someone from speaking based on the subject of their speech, it prohibits “disruptive behavior” and the “open and persistent defiance of the authority” of college employees. It also would ban obscenity, profanity and amplification.
I am surprised Peralta is taking this action at the same time that Southwestern College in San Diego is taking heat for a similar proposed policy (interestingly, both colleges label their proposals “Policy 5550”). Southwestern suspended three professors last year for speaking outside the “free speech patio.”
Even though community colleges throughout California are experimenting with speech zone policies, California law defines community college campuses as civic centers “where citizens . . . may meet and discuss . . . any subjects and questions which in their judgment appertain to the educational, political, economic, artistic, and moral interests of the citizens of the communities in which they reside.” Under this law and many others, these colleges are poised for a legal fight. So I offer this, any college counsel that wants to avoid a lawsuit over these policies is welcome to contact us. Do the right thing, and stop the spread of the speech zone malady.