Letter to UC Riverside Chancellor White Condemning UCR’s “Protest Guidelines”
One month ahead of the Regents Meeting that will take place at UC Riverside on 17-19 January, the UCR administration has just adopted a series of anti-protest measures under the guise of promoting “safe protests”. The Board of the SDFA has written to Chancellor White at UCR condemning the new policy and requesting its removal.
8 December 2011
Dear Chancellor White and members of the UCR community:
On behalf of the Board of the San Diego Faculty Association (SDFA), I write to condemn the Protest Guidelines that have just been accepted as official policy at UCR. These regulations would be risible if they did not take such potentially damaging aim at the rights that students, faculty and staff enjoy to peacefully protest on a UC campus.
Without any hint of humor, Orwellian prose cynically portrays the Protest Guidelines as “civilized” measures that “protect” the right to free assembly on campus– but are cynically intended to ensure the opposite. Among the specious instructions are several rules that require protesters to submit protest plans to campus authorities a month before a specified event and have those plans approved two weeks in advance of the event. Posters must be displayed in “glass cases” and must be constructed of “soft material such as cardboard or cloth” and may not be “attached to rigid sticks or poles”. Other regulations authorize university officials to censor protest flyers and other informational posters. A “UCR staff representative” must be present at an approved protest event, which in turn must be confined to an “approved space”. The litany of restrictions goes on and on and mocks the banner-cry that “FREE SPEECH IS WELCOME HERE”.
Supported by the Council of University of California Faculty Associations, the UCR Faculty Association has already informed you that these regulations “infringe on and curtail students’ freedom of speech and assembly, which are fundamental human rights protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” The SDFA concurs and would respectfully remind you that in the wake of the police outrages on the Berkeley and Davis campuses, President Yudof took the opportunity to re-assert his view that peaceful protest “is in the marrow” of the UC. It is therefore astonishing that UCR has now so provocatively institutionalized “protest guidelines” that fly in the face of this approach to peaceful protest. UCR administrators may believe or pretend that the “Rules of Protest” are benign technicalities, but faculty and students will reject them as chilling, illegitimate and, ultimately, also as illegal. The guidelines are therefore very likely to foment artificial crises and confrontations at UCR, not “prevent” them.
On behalf of its members, the Board of the SDFA urges you to immediately rescind these ill-advised “rules of protest” and permit faculty and students on the Riverside campus to exercise their rights to peaceful protest, free of unreasonable restrictions and transparent double-speak.
Professor of Sociology