Campus AAUP president condemns policy limiting students’ and employees’ ability to speak at citizens to be heard.
By Kyle R. Cotton
The Alamo Colleges board of trustees on Oct. 27 tabled a proposal that would limit students, faculty and staff from speaking at board meetings, and one trustee says the citizens-to-be-heard policy could return for discussion at the Feb. 16 committee meeting.
“While I don’t know for certain, I’ve heard rumors that the policy could be on this month’s agenda,” District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery said.
Eduardo “Eddie” Cruz, district ethics and compliance officer who handles policy items along with the Alamo Colleges legal team, said he has yet to receive any revisions to the policy.
The revisions tabled in October included a time limit of one hour for citizens to be heard and Procedure B.8.1.1, which says, “The board chairperson shall not allow employee or student complaints at citizens to be heard without determining that the speaker has exhausted available administrative remedies.
“Should students or faculty groups wish to interact with the board regarding substantive issues already worked with administration, or should a trustee seek their input, the board chairperson, after consultation with the chancellor, may schedule a brief special board meeting before the commencement of a regular board meeting, or an agenda item for a board retreat from time to time for the purpose.”
The amendments to policy B.8.1 were tabled unanimously because the board didn’t like an overall time limit and didn’t feel it was clear how the board chair should determine whether a student or employee had exhausted all options.
In October, the board approved changes to a policy regarding board member authority, barring trustees from conducting “hearings, listening sessions or fact gathering directly from employees.”
Celita Avila, reference and distance learning librarian and president of this college’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said faculty and students do not misuse opportunities to speak at board meetings.
“We’re not the ones who go to board meetings without exhausting administrative options,” Avila said of the proposal.
Lisa Black, president of this college’s Faculty Senate, said Tuesday the senate would not comment on the proposal before meeting with the decision-making design team.
The team is composed of members of Faculty Super Senate and administration, who will discuss possible revisions to Procedure B.8.1.1.
The meeting, scheduled for last Friday, took place after The Ranger went to press.
“We don’t want to comment on something where the ink isn’t dry yet,” Black said.
Faculty Super Senate comprises the Faculty Senates from all five Alamo Colleges.
Harley Williams, psychology sophomore and this college’s Student Government Association president, said about the procedure, “I understand where they are coming from; sometimes there are students who speak at the board meetings that just end up butting heads with the board. At the same time, I feel the way it’s worded is a bit weird.”
Williams said she thinks the policy is fine, but wants it to outline a clear route for student concerns.
“The board should tell students what they need to do, rather than just ‘no, you can’t do that.’”
Avila said the proposal violates the First Amendment rights of students and employees.
“It’s an open meeting,” she said. “Students and employees are taxpayers, too.”
If approved, the proposal will go to the full board Feb. 23.