Bill Challenges Students' Right to Protest
May 19, 2005 11:53 PM
Regardless of race, creed or religion, students have always been free to gather, rally and protest on campus, but those days may be quickly coming to an end.
On Feb. 16, California State Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-San Luis Obispo) introduced Senate Bill 337, which would punish students involved in protests by mandating universities to expel the students. In most cases, all financial aid would also be revoked.
“The purpose of this bill is to hold college students accountable for their criminal behavior off campus,” Maldonado said on his Web site.
The proposed law says students would be punished for breaking any one of several riot laws in the California Penal Code, including:
Section 243 (b) - Battery on a peace officer, firefighter, or EMT, if this offense occurs at the scene of a riot or unlawful assembly.
Section 404 - Rioting, defined as any use or threat to use force or violence, disturbing the public peace, by two or more persons acting together.
Section 404.6 - Incitement to riot.
Section 405a - Lynching (forcefully taking, by means of a riot, any person from the lawful custody of a peace officer).
Section 409 - Failing to disperse after lawful warning.
Section 416(a) - Failure to disperse after command.
The last of these two provisions are misdemeanors, which led members of the state senate to question whether penalties may sometimes be excessive.
In late March, the bill made its way back onto the senate floor, where senators voiced serious concerns. According to minutes from the March 29 meeting, the bill had a “lack of due process,” “need for clarification,” and contained “discriminatory provisions.”
Also brought up at the meeting was the fact that the bill may violate the current state Education Code, by requiring universities to impose an automatic dismissal to offending students. That would deprive the universities of their campus discretion and due process protections guaranteed by the code.
Even more, students may be deprived of the right to assemble and protest, actions that have brought national notoriety to the SF State campus in past years.
The current wording of the bill makes no distinction between protests that occur on campus or off campus. Although the bill calls for a minimum one-year expulsion from all state schools, there is no mention of a statute of limitations - meaning students could conceivably be punished for protests that happened years ago.
SF State officials have no formal stance on the issue, but public relations spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said "the CSU system is looking at making some revisions to Title V with respect to student life, to better describe responsible student behavior."
"It's likely that an update of Title V will be submitted to the Board of Trustees in July," said Griffin.
Donna Hubbard, a professor of ethnic studies and a lawyer, said she was wary of ignoring any restrictive legislation, regardless of its status.
"The fact that it hasn't left committee is a good thing for those opposed, but when legislation is at that stage is when people should organize and voice their opinion on it," she said.
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