Freedom of the college student press could be at risk

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By Staff Editorial

By Staff Editorial

Recent proposed changes to District Regulation 5120, which could potentially limit First Amendment freedoms for RCC students, have been under much scrutiny by freedom of the press advocates.

The changes, which include a statement that limits free speech on campus, were originally intended to bar demonstrators from disrupting classrooms. The changes, according to RCC administrators, were proposed after anti-abortion protesters at the Moreno Valley Campus paraded graphic images in front of students in the lunchroom during mealtimes.

It is easy to see how people who are eating their lunch have the right to eat undisturbed from noisy demonstrators waving horror pictures of dead fetuses. Anyone who has had to endure a class with loud noise outside would appreciate the administration’s effort.

The problem is the wording. The implied protection of a free student newspaper on campus is not specifically stated in the changes, and they are, therefore, subject to possibly different interpretation by future campus administrators.

This was the subject at a meeting Oct. 18 between Chancellor Salvatore Rotella and Timothy Guy, editor of Viewpoints and Allan Lovelace, Viewpoints faculty adviser. They suggested to the chancellor and Linda Lacy, vice-chancellor of Student Services, that a statement should be added to 5120 that would guarantee “editorial independence and press freedom” for all student newspapers at RCC, and to recognize and affirm that these newspapers be designated public forums.

They told Rotella and Lacy that the possible impact on the student press warranted a much more thorough evaluation of Board policy 5120, and that the sensitive nature of the changes was inappropriate for being fast-tracked.

Rotella agreed that the fast-track process was wrong and he decided to send the proposal through all the proper channels, which includes review and approval by the English Department and the Academic Senate before final approval by the Board of Trustees. Isn’t it nice how things flow so smoothly when everyone is on the same page?

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