LCCEF & LCCEA Statement on Proposed Speech Restriction Policy

To: President Bulger and Board of Education Members

From: LCCEF & LCCEA

Date: October 27, 2022

Re: Proposed Speech Restriction Policy

Dear President Bulger and Members of the Board of Education, 

We are sharing our concerns about the proposed speech restriction policy on behalf of the 200 full-time and 250 part-time faculty and 250 full-time and 150 part-time classified professionals of Lane Community College.

LCC already has a “time, place, and manner” restriction policy for external groups who come on campus (attached). Among other things, this existing policy was developed by a College Council Taskforce after an outside anti-abortion group with extra-large format photos set up a display on Bristow Square a few years ago. The Taskforce worked for a year to develop a policy that would not abrogate the Constitutional speech rights of outside groups, yet would provide some limitations on how, when, and where such speech could occur. The policy was fully supported by stakeholder groups, passed through the shared governance system, and also underwent a legal review.

What the new proposed Board policy would do is expand time, place and manner speech restrictions to everyone on campus, limiting speech by students, employees, employee unions, and anyone affiliated with LCC. Students and employees are already subject to disciplinary action if they were to take actions that are disruptive to the learning environment (e.g., shouting with a bullhorn into a math class – the example given in the Board meeting). According to our attorney, LCC is not legally required to adopt a new time, place, manner speech restriction policy that expands the existing policy, which governs outside groups, to now apply also to students and employees.

What the new proposed policy would mean is that the limited designated public fora would have restrictions that limit the time, place, and manner of speech (e.g., decibel level, poster size, timing). Speech such as student posters, union flyers, student government candidate signs for ASLCC representatives, etc. could be limited to posting in the public forum locations and within the guidelines established. We are especially concerned about the suggestion that Bristow Square would not be a public forum. It has long been the public heart of our campus with events such as: student-led voter registration, the Pow Wow, a memorial for victims of the Umpqua Community College shooting, a student-faculty-classified jointly sponsored rally with speakers from administration and the Board of Education about funding for higher education, and so many more. 

Furthermore, the remainder of campus would be explicitly designated as a non-public forum. This means the rest of campus could have more stringent restrictions on speech. For instance, a model Linn-Benton policy cited as an example for the Board limits the content and topics of expression (e.g. posters, speech, other types of expressive acts) in all non-public forum locations, including offices and classrooms. This is precisely the type of policy and legislation that is increasingly proposed across the country to limit speech that advocates for or protects marginalized groups. One example in Oregon is the Newberg School District, which prohibited students’ and employees’ display of pride flags and Black Lives Matter signs – which was the subject of a lawsuit that ultimately overturned the policy. See also the UCLA Critical Race Forward project tracking these efforts to ban symbols, language, and curriculum across the nation.

In addition, the proposed LCC Board policy also expressly protects students’ rights to wear buttons and badges and to post to bulletin boards, but allows no similar protections for employees. 

Furthermore, after consultation with our attorney, we believe the proposed policy and/or rules created as described in the work session would violate the rights of unions under Oregon’s Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act, which allow unions specific rights and protections to access facilities and employees, to meet, and to communicate, including through banners and signs – rights for public employee unions reinforced and supported by case law.

The proposed speech restriction policy also stands in stark contrast to another existing policy on the freedom of inquiry and the freedom of expression, which emphasizes the importance of democratic principles as foundational for an educational institution and student learning. This existing freedom of inquiry and expression policy also protects the rights of members of the campus community to “ freely and peaceably assemble and demonstrate in accordance with the exercise of constitutional rights, so long as such activity does not impede the rights and freedom of others” – rights which the proposed new Board policy would curtail.

In addition to all the reasons above, speech restrictions are strictly scrutinized by the Court and highly controversial. For this reason, they are likely to result in lawsuits. 

Furthermore, the new proposed policy undermines and circumvents our shared governance system, adding policies that contravene collectively determined and already approved and legally reviewed governance policies. 

In sum, we believe the new policy and its implications undermine the foundational principles of our vibrant democracy and the quintessential function of an institution of higher education.

Finally, while we have concerns about the proposed speech restriction policy, we wish to clarify that we strongly support a policy that prohibits hate speech. LCC does have a policy that prohibits hate speech and other types of bias incidents. (Please see: https://inside.lanecc.edu/copps/documents/bias-incident ).

We urge you to remove this proposal from your agenda, discontinue proposals to limit speech on campus, and ensure that campus stakeholders and the shared governance system are fully engaged in any other broad-reaching policy. Instead, we ask that you refocus efforts to encourage freedom of speech, expression, and the free exchange of ideas that are fundamental to our campus and all institutions of higher education and to ensure that bias incidents and hate speech continue to be prohibited.

Thank you for your consideration, your commitment to democratic principles, and your dedicated service on the Board of Education.

LCCEF Officers

Frankie Cocanour, President

Buck Potter, Vice President of Labor

Colin Vurek, Vice President of Organizing

Linda Reling, Treasurer

Dawn Rupp, Grievance Officer

Fiora Starchild-Wolf, COPE Officer

Marleena Pearson, Communications Officer

LCCEA Officers

Adrienne Mitchell, President

Aryn Bartley, Secretary

Marge Helzer, Treasurer

Christina Howard, Vice President for Career Technical Faculty

Rosa Lopez, Vice President for Faculty At-Large

Peggy Oberstaller, Vice President for Part-Time Faculty

Wendy Simmons, Vice President for Learning Advancement

Kate Sullivan, Vice President for Transfer Faculty

About LCCEA

The Lane Community College Education Association
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