Viewpoints’ news racks attacked

“Radical Islam.” “America’s Rush to Destruction.” These are some of the statements made on two fliers going around on the Riverside City College campus, each of them with scripture quotes and a political message.

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By Yasmeen Salama / Asst. News Editor

Unwelcome fliers (Javier Cabrera / Editor in Chief )

By Yasmeen Salama / Asst. News Editor

“Radical Islam.” “America’s Rush to Destruction.” These are some of the statements made on two fliers going around on the Riverside City College campus, each of them with scripture quotes and a political message.

The fliers have appeared in the windows of news racks designated for Viewpoints newspapers near the Digital Library, in the parking structure and outside the Viewpoints newsroom.

Allan Lovelace, associate professor of Journalism at RCC said in an e-mail that fliers have circulated in the news racks before but that “lately it has increased significantly.”

“This has happened around 20 times with these two fliers in the last two weeks,” he said in the e-mail.

Javier Cabrera, the editor-in-chief of Viewpoints, said he noticed the fliers have been appearing for about a month.

“It just irritates me because there’s a sign out there . . . on the news rack, that says they can’t do that, that it’s against the law and they do it anyway,” he said.

The two fliers have also been found in the news racks at University of California Riverside.

UCR campus police caught the perpetrators on video but had not identified them as of press time.

In addition to the political fliers, Cabrera said he also found a student government campaign flier, with complementary buttons attached to it, inside one of the news racks.

“I was surprised to see something from student government, like right on top of our newspapers,” Cabrera said.

“We put the sign right there on top of the racks so if they don’t see it, that’s their fault,” he said.   

The law stated on the news rack that Cabrera is referring to is California penal code section 538c, which states that placing material in the racks without the consent of the newspaper is considered “theft of advertisement” and is “punishable as a misdemeanor.”

Quoting this law, Lovelace said in another e-mail that this is how he would like to prosecute the offenders.

“The fliers are being put in the news racks’ windows in such a way that they are blocking people from seeing Viewpoints in the news rack as they pass by,” he said. “This is censorship, and it must stop.”

An RCC police officer has been investigating the situation to determine who is responsible for distributing the fliers.

The officer was unavailable for comment as of press time.  

Not only does the distribution of these fliers violate state law, but it also violates campus policy on free speech.

Riverside Community College District campuses are considered non-public forums and therefore have official school policies for the exercise of free speech.

Though RCC campus policy does not “prohibit the right of students to exercise free expression,” it states that the campus administration has the right to determine the “time, place and manner” of the expression.

Edward Bush, Student Services vice president, said that the administration must have some regulation on how and when students express themselves.

“We . . . have an obligation to make sure nothing’s going on that would interfere with education,” Bush said. “If someone is protesting on campus and starts making a lot of noise and you’re in the middle of a final or something, I mean that’s really distracting.”

He also said that RCC abides by the state’s free speech laws, which include regulating obscene or defamatory content, but not the opinions expressed.

“Students are able to post fliers on the designated posting areas,” he said.  

The designated area for free speech at RCC extends from the Martin Luther King Jr. High Tech Center to the Bookstore promenade area.

Bush said that students and non-students can present their points of view freely in this “free speech zone” without need of approval.

However, he said that any fliers, pamphlets and other printed material distributed outside the free speech zone must have a stamp of approval from the student services office.

The fliers found in the news racks, in addition to violating the state penal code, were not stamped.

 Some colleges, such as San Francisco State College, consider free speech zones unconstitutional, a position Lovelace shares.

“Having a free speech zone implies that students can’t express themselves anywhere else on campus,” he said.

Some students agree with Lovelace, saying that there should not be one specific area designated for free speech.

“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” said RCC student Paula Valdez. “I can see how they would want to kind of make sure people aren’t doing anything that’s . . . like messing with other people and stuff but I don’t think we should have to have it,” she said.

Other students said that they like having a designated zone.

“Some people are like all up in your face and I’ve seen people with some really disgusting posters and  I don’t want to see that stuff,” said Karen Barona, a second-semester student on campus.

“I think it would be appropriate to just keep it in that zone,” she said. “That way if you want to hear it, you know where to go and if you want to protest something or express yourself, you know where to go.”

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