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Dismiss the Proposed "CUNY Policy on Expressive Activity"

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Attn: Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly; Interim President Chase Robinson; Dean Sarah Bartlett, Dean Michelle Anderson; Dean John Mogulescu; Dean Ann Kirschner; Interim Dean Ayman El Mohandes; President Mitchel B. Wallerstein; President Karen L. Gould; President Lisa Staiano-Coico; Interim President William J. Fritz; President Jennifer J. Raab; President Jeremy Travis; President Ricardo R. Fernandez; President Rudolph F. Crew; President Russell K. Hotzler; President James L. Muyskens; President Marcia Keizs; President Antonio Perez; President Carole B. Joseph; President Felix V. Matos Rodriguez; Acting President Stuart Suss; President Gail O. Mellow; President Scott E. Evenbeck; and President Diane Call.



We, the undersigned students, faculty, and staff of the City University of New York, are concerned by the recent broadly-worded proposal to regulate and limit “expressive activity” on CUNY campuses. The draft policy is nothing short of a draconian curtailing of CUNY community members’ rights to assemble, express, discuss, and debate, and has no business being part of the governing structure of any university. We demand its immediate dismissal as we note the following:


We agree that CUNY is “committed to the free exchange of ideas and expression of all points of view for members of the University community, including students, faculty, and staff.” Our response to this proposed policy comes from this ethos and commitment.


We refuse the framework that “freedom of expression and assembly” are “subject to the need to maintain order.” Subordinating free expression and assembly to the need for order does not reflect the environment of intellectual experimentation critical to education that we seek and maintain in our classrooms, hallways, and shared spaces. This false relationship is regularly used to police people of color and transgender people in particular and comes out of a long history of targeting and preventing unpopular speech.


We object to the oversight of “time, place, and manner” of the freedom of expression by any CUNY administrative entities and testify that this act cannot be done in a “non-discriminatory” manner, as suggested by the proposed policy.  


The trope of “safety” that is being employed by the university administration in an effort to curtail both speech and assembly is unconstitutional, representing a direct affront to our First Amendment rights. We assert that the public university has a public obligation to ensure the protection of free speech, expression, and assembly on its premises.  


We are further alarmed at the attempts to limit or regulate leafleting, tabling, and posting.  CUNY campuses are shared public spaces. Effectively designating only parts of these institutions as “free speech zones” sets a dangerous example to students about what engagement with their community means.


Finally, we are appalled by the full-scale criminalization of “prohibited conduct,” in which students and employees are “subject to disciplinary action” both within the University and the “external” law-enforcement apparatus. We have seen numerous condemnable examples of this criminalizing scheme, such as most recently the suspension of two City College organizers on October 28, 2013; the arrests of a City College alumnus and a Hunter College student at City College on October 24, 2013; the closure of the Morales/Shakur Student and Community Center by the City College administration on October 20, 2013; and the violent arrests of six students outside Macaulay Honors College on September 17, 2013. We condemn this proposed policy on “expressive activity” which we see as directly correlated to these instances of physical repression.  


Indeed, this policy would codify such repression, and we demand that it be immediately dismissed.  We strongly recommend that assurances regarding the right to assemble, disseminate information, and physically protest be made in its stead.

The undersigned,

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