The office of student life plans to update the public demonstration policy.
By Geoffrey Hovatter
About 15 members of Chi Alpha, an inactive organization at this college, attracted a crowd of 66 students during a demonstration April 3 in the mall west of Moody Learning Center.
Fellowship member Miguel Ocampo said the demonstration was supposed to be an opportunity to spread a Christian religious message and engage in discussions.
“The grace of God is the greatest gift available to mankind,” Ocampo said.
Many students who stopped to listen had issues with the way fellowship members portrayed Christianity.
Ocampo and other members of the group said people who drink alcohol, smoke marijuana, watch pornography or are homosexual are “going to burn in hell.”
Political science sophomore Danielle Knabel, who stopped by, said in an interview, “If you’re going to preach something, then preach what the entity you’re preaching for teaches.”
Another bystander, criminal justice sophomore Crystal Gephart, said, “I do believe in God; I do believe in Jesus but whatever he is saying is all blasphemous and heresy.”
Ocampo said the fellowship viewed the demonstration as a way for students and members to exchange ideas about Christianity.
“This is a place to have that exchange as long as we remain civil, let’s have that exchange,” Ocampo said. “Let’s have freedom of speech for everyone.”
While the event was going on, a student complained to the office of student life.
“There was a complaint filed earlier today asking if they had the right to be here, which they did,” administrative service specialist Andrew Anthony said April 3 in an interview.
Student Life Director Jacob-Aidan Martinez said April 3 that groups that want to have demonstrations on campus must fill out an application from the student life office, and they must follow the rules listed in the application.
The rules listed in the application state groups cannot interfere with classes, obstruct doorways or walkways or impede pedestrian traffic. They may not exhibit signs containing obscene material or heckle individuals.
Applications must be submitted two weeks before the event. Applications must be approved by the director of student life and the dean of student success, Dr. Maria Oralia De Los Reyes.
Mark Bigelow, interim director of student life, approved the application for the fellowship.
Martinez was aware of the group coming on campus.
The office of student life defines a demonstration as “anybody who is wanting to share a message that is political or religious,” Anthony said.
The fellowship submitted required paperwork and had permission to demonstrate on campus, Anthony said.
For students, free speech rights fall under the student code of conduct.
Martinez said students have the right to express themselves however they want and demonstrate if the demonstration is civil.
Student life is planning to review the current application process and better define what violates this college’s policy, Martinez said.
“I definitely think we need to relook at the form and update it,” Martinez said.