Protest transforms into free speech debate
The American Civil Liberties Union has sent a public letter to Southwestern College about the incident where a peaceful protest ended up with the indefinite suspension of three college professors.
The Southwestern College community, —where many students are Hispanic or Tijuana residents who commute to school— is not only debating current administration policies, but it is publicly discussing the right to free speech on Community College Campuses.
ACLU’s legal director, David Blair-Roy, sent the harsh letter, —addressed to SWC President, Raj K. Chopra, dated November 9th—, questioning actions taken during and after the student protest.
According to Blair-Roy, the administration’s actions go against Federal and State Law, and that the so called Policy 5550, which assigns only small areas of campus as “free speech zones” it’s unconstitutional, because students’ free speech rights cannot be lesser than those protected for any other citizen in the country.
ACLU’s public statement backs up a prior statement made by the Foundation for the Rights of Individuals in Education (FIRE) a group that recently won a case overruling the “free expression zone” policy on a College Campus in Texas.
The overruled policy in Texas is very similar to SWC Policy 5550, which was violated by both students and teachers when they walked outside the “free speech zone” and walked to the offices of the college president.
The actions resulted in the suspension of three teachers, including Professor Dinorah Guadiana-Costa, who has been working at SWC for the past 18 years, 15 as full time staff.
Three weeks after her suspension, Guadiana-Costa is still in shock and disbelief about what is happening. According to her account, students asked for all necessary permits and were even given clear proposals for some mandatory classes to remain open next semester.
“The so called ‘free speech zones’ are absurd, it is a way to say ‘don’t bother me with your demands, stay there screaming in your distant little corner’” she explains, “ truth is, Chopra has no experience leading a university and has reigned with a fist of terror, gagging, threatening and creating a negative environment on campus.”
A free-speech rally is planned for 11 a.m., November 13th in front of Mayan Hall on the Southwestern campus.