NIC mulls free speech policy - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

NIC mulls free speech policy

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Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - A policy that would regulate free speech activities on the North Idaho College campus is being considered for adoption by the college's board of trustees.

Sheldon Nord, NIC's vice president for Student Services, will ask trustees to approve a "Time, Place, and Manner Policy" at the board's monthly meeting taking place on campus at 6 p.m. today.

The protest held on NIC grounds last fall by members of Westboro Baptist Church highlighted the college's lack of such a policy, Nord told The Press.

"The intent is to ensure that our campus maintains a safe and productive learning environment while allowing for the free exchange of ideas," wrote Nord, in an email.

The proposed policy has already been approved by members of NIC's upper-level administration, the college senate, and NIC's attorney.

In his email, Nord acknowledged that the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech.

"This guarantee generally safeguards the right of individuals to express themselves without governmental restraint," Nord wrote. "Nevertheless, the free speech clause of the First Amendment is not absolute. It has never been interpreted to guarantee all forms of speech without any restraint whatsoever."

Supreme Court rulings reflect that government agencies may place reasonable restrictions on the time, place and manner of individual expression, he wrote.

"Before the Westboro Baptist visit, what we discovered is that most colleges and universities now have free speech zones, and NIC did not have a policy," said retired NIC instructor and local civil rights activist, Tony Stewart.

Free speech zone policies must be "content neutral," Stewart said.

There are, he said, two constitutional amendments that must be considered: the first amendment right to free speech, and the 14th amendment's right to equal protection under the law.

"How you balance those two in a democracy is really important," Stewart said. "You have to craft policies in a way where you don't infringe upon free speech during peaceful assembly, and you protect peoples' right to freedom from physical threats and violence."

"Most colleges and universities do have this kind of policy," he said.

Barbara Chamberlain, director of public affairs at Washington State University Spokane, said her campus has a similar policy in place.

"We designate a specific location for something that's going to attract a large group of people," Chamberlain said.

It's the same place for every type of group, Chamberlain said, and does not discriminate based on the content.

"It's not meant to infringe on the free speech rights of anyone, but to balance the interests of tuition-paying students with those rights," Chamberlain said.

If approved, NIC's policy will prohibit "leafleting, picketing, speech-making, demonstration, petition circulation, posting signs, and similar speech-related activities" if those activities:

* impede driving or walking on campus;

* disrupt regular or authorized activities on NIC's grounds of facilities including classrooms, offices and laboratories;

* are conducted within 20 feet of all exits, entrances, staircases, parking lots and roadways;

* are conducted at a volume that disrupts the normal use of classrooms, offices and labs.

The policy gives the college's vice president for Resource Management the authority to designate a portion of the campus, and the time of day, when the grounds are not available for speech activities in order to meet traffic, emergency access and public transit needs.

Demonstrators will be required to give the campus safety department 48-hour notice prior to picketing or other activities.

Violators of the policy, if they are staff or students, would be subject to campus disciplinary proceedings. Others would be asked to leave campus, and would be subject to arrest for criminal trespass, if they failed to leave.

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9 comments:

  • 986crazy posted at 11:34 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    986crazy Posts: 410

    *can't PARK on.

     
  • 986crazy posted at 11:34 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    986crazy Posts: 410

    local res: regarding "Is NIC now trying to claim the city streets & sidewalks as campus property?" Why not? Fort Grounds residents have claimed that publicly maintained streets in their neighborhood are "theirs" and the city concurs. Funny how CDA residents still have to pay for maintenance on streets they can't pay for.

     
  • toughluck posted at 11:30 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    toughluck Posts: 167

    If you read the article right, the campus would eliminate "speech-making" in college classrooms. I sure hope they word the "official" document right so that they will not have to defend expensive lawsuits.

     
  • local res posted at 7:36 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    local res Posts: 1164

    What? Is NIC now trying to claim the city streets & sidewalks as campus property? So why do people recieve a CDA ticket for parking incorrect? What next, we the citizens have no input into college transactions? Ah, wait we already have no voice into the college's transactions.

     
  • idabilly posted at 6:48 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    idabilly Posts: 390

    opps... "are" more equal....

     
  • The Truth posted at 6:42 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    The Truth Posts: 2193

    "This guarantee generally safeguards the right of individuals to express themselves without governmental restraint," Nord wrote. "Nevertheless, the free speech clause of the First Amendment is not absolute. It has never been interpreted to guarantee all forms of speech without any restraint whatsoever."

    vs.

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

     
  • idabilly posted at 6:21 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    idabilly Posts: 390

    "....some animals and more equal than other animals."

     
  • 986crazy posted at 6:14 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    986crazy Posts: 410

    Restricting free speech on college campuses is a bad idea.

     
  • squirrel nutkin posted at 4:32 am on Wed, Apr 27, 2011.

    squirrel nutkin Posts: 231

    I don't disagree with any of this, but given NIC's deception on so many levels I would not trust them to run this policy fairly or consistently.

     
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