Student life plans to review application for campus demonstrations

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Jacob-Aidan Martinez. File

The updated application may be ready for fall

By Geoffrey Hovatter  

ghovatter@alamo.edu

Student life Director Jacob-Aiden Martinez is planning to meet with the Alamo Colleges legal services this summer to go over changes to the college’s expressions and demonstrations application.

The Alamo Colleges’ legal team needs to better define rules and restrictions, Martinez said.

The application needs to be more ethical and specific on what groups can and can’t do, Martinez said.

The rules in the application designate events must be outside during a specific time, away from buildings and not intruding on students walking to class.

The application also says groups may not heckle or incite students while handing out pamphlets. Signs must not have obscene material or promote anything without the organization’s name on it and be a specific size.

The application specifies no poster can be larger than 22 by 28 inches.

The application also does not specify actions student life could take if an off-campus, group or individual were to violate the policy.

He wants the application to provide rules that adhere to the First Amendment but let off campus-groups know they must follow more guidelines.

“If those people want to come back, then they’re aware of what they can do and can’t do,” Martinez said. “As long as they abide by it, like I said, they’re welcome to express their rights”.

Martinez said he and the Alamo Colleges legal team plan to revise the application and send to the college administration for approval.

He plans to have the application ready by fall.

He plans to share the application with other sister schools in the Alamo Colleges that have been experiencing confrontations with demonstrators and students.

They have also seen rise in the number of complaints filed by students regarding demonstrations hosted by off-campus groups, he said.

This semester a religious demonstration hosted by Chi Alpha upset many students over the way the demonstrators were talking to students.

Many students said they considered their demonstration more of heckling then a demonstration. Some asked why the group was allowed on campus.

In a story published by The Ranger, in spring 2018 during a demonstration on anti-abortion performed by Love of Truth Ministries, a couple of students threw water at demonstrators and vandalized posters.

There has been another instance where students have protested demonstrations hosted by Love of Truth Ministries.

Martinez is considered changing the location where demonstrations are allowed to take place to a location that does not impede student traffic.

The current location is d in the mall west of Moody Learning Center.

“I think we just need to figure out a location that better fits that and then also really beef up and define some of the terminology in this application,” he said.

The problem with moving the location to a new area will be if it impedes on First Amendment rights of students.

“Most college campuses have more than just one outdoor area that’s publicly available to students, so regulating them all to this one area is not a reasonable restriction,” Laura Beltz, senior program officer for policy reform for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

However, the college does not have to follow the same set rules it has set for the student body.

The approach to making a fair set of rules can be difficult because of the large student population at the college.

Beltz said the college should allow students to have more freedom to demonstrate under the First Amendment.

“It’s really important that students are allowed to spontaneously demonstrate in at least some areas of the campus,” Beltz said. “You should be able to do that without filling out kind of permit in advance.”

She believes students should have the right to protest at anytime especially if there are issue that students think is wrong and want to be a voice for change.

“Spontaneous protest is really important because a lot of times when something comes up in the news, students want to respond to it,” Beltz said. “If they have to fill out some kind of application and want to get on the campus then whatever they were trying to protest about might be yesterday’s news at that point.”

Since 2004 student life has used the same application for off-campus groups to host a free speech event or demonstration.

The application has seen very little change in the 15 years it has been used at this college.

“We want to make sure we’re not impeding on anyone’s rights, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we keep our community safe as well,” Martinez said.

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