Speech policy reviewed

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Math Professor Gerald Busald expresses his discontent with the proposed and then amended citizens-to-be-heard policy change during the Oct. 27 regular board meeting in Killen. Photo by Cynthia M. Herrera

Math Professor Gerald Busald expresses his discontent with the proposed and then amended citizens-to-be-heard policy change during the Oct. 27 regular board meeting in Killen. Photo by Cynthia M. Herrera

The citizens-to-be-heard policy is sent back to the Policy and Long-Range Planning Committee.

By Cynthia M. Herrera

cherrera151@student.alamo.edu

A proposal that would restrict students, faculty and staff from speaking during citizens-to-be-heard at meetings of the Alamo Colleges trustees unless speakers have exhausted administrative channels was sent back to the Policy and Long-Range Committee for further discussion.

No agreement could be made on proposed amendments to board policy during the regular board meeting Oct. 27.

Administrative channels for students require going through student government associations at district colleges or the college president before resorting to citizens-to-be-heard. This is specified in Procedure B.8.1.1 Administrative Remedies Before Resorting to Citizens-to-be-heard, which is referred to in the proposed amendments.

Faculty and staff must go through proper channels seeking administrative solutions before bringing up issues to the board as stated in Policy B. 8.1. under Procedure B.8.1.1 and Procedure D. 3.3, Employee Complaints.

For faculty, the channel would be Faculty Senate and for staff it would be Staff Council. Both groups also would need to seek a solution from the college administration, President Robert Vela said.

The proposal was forwarded to the full board Oct. 20 after committee members were unable to agree on the amendments.

Gerald Busald, president of the Alamo Colleges Faculty Legal Action Association and math professor at this college, represented the group and spoke during citizens-to-be-heard.

“I think it’s a horrible, horrible thing. It’s like we want no negative thoughts ever to come out at the board meetings. Sometimes negative thoughts lead to positive results,” he said.

Busald said the association has not contacted its attorney.

Board Chair Ana Bustamante, District 3 trustee, said she would like citizens-to-be-heard not to have a time limit, which is stated in the policy but rather a “reasonable” amount of time.

Citizens-to-be-heard is currently limited to one hour.

Speakers are given three minutes to speak, representing themselves, and five minutes representing a group.

Ross Laughead, Alamo Colleges attorney, said if the policy had been passed, public comments for a specific item on the agenda would not be allowed during citizens-to-be-heard but rather during discussion of items for input.

He said additional time for citizen input would be allowed under the agenda item.

The board cannot speak to those voicing their concerns on issues not on the agenda because of the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code Chapter 551, Section 551.042, which was established September 1993.

However, the amended policy would not allow a speaker who spoke as an individual during citizens-to-be-heard to speak again as a representative of a group.

This college’s Student Government Association was not represented at the meeting.

Harley Williams, this college’s SGA president, said she was not aware of this policy amendment even though she does meet and speak with student trustee Sami Adames during the Student District Council meeting, which occurs every two weeks.

“I’m aware of certain things, but I was not aware of that exactly. Our meeting had to get canceled last Friday because of the weather,” Williams said.

The Policy Long-Range Committee meets at 6 p.m. Dec 8 in Killen Center, 201 W. Sheridan. The next regular board meeting is Dec. 15.

No meetings are scheduled for November.

For more information, call 210-485-0000.

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