After pressure from the PSC and students, the CUNY Board of Trustees decided to postpone voting on a controversial free speech policy that would have limited leafletting, tabling and posting of fliers to areas designated by college presidents. At a well-attended Bronx Borough hearing of the Board of Trustees at Hostos Community College, dozens of faculty and students testified in opposition to the proposed Policy on Freedom of Expression and Expressive Conduct, calling it “Orwellian,” “paranoid,” and “hysterical,” according to a report by Politico New York reporter Conor Skelding. Some took issue with the fact the policy would limit media access to classrooms, libraries and laboratories — especially as it appeared on the Board’s agenda just weeks after The New York Times published an investigative report on deteriorating conditions at CUNY colleges that included a photo of a library in disrepair at Lehman College, and another of a CUNY classroom.
A CUNY working group, chaired by Frederick P. Schaffer, general counsel and senior vice chancellor for legal affairs at CUNY, drafted the policy over the course of the year, according to a statement he posted on the CUNY website. The Board held its borough hearing on Monday, June 20, and was scheduled to vote on the proposed policy a week later on June 27. Days before the scheduled vote, a note added to the meeting agenda stated that the policy will be considered “at a later time.”
CALL FOR BARGAINING
In 2013, the PSC passed a resolution opposing a similar proposed policy. At the recent borough hearing, PSC President Barbara Bowen urged the Board to bargain over this policy since it refers to contractual procedures on discipline, asserting that the draft policy, in its current form, should be withdrawn.
“Such a policy seems especially dangerous in a university whose students are already often silenced and marginalized by poverty and racism,” Bowen added. Others who spoke out at the meeting took issue with the fact that discussion about the policy was scheduled for a vote after the Spring semester had ended, when many faculty and students are away from campus for the summer.
It was after hearing testimony from faculty, staff, students and alumni that the board backed down – for now. Recently appointed Board Chair Bill Thompson and CUNY Chancellor James Milliken, according to a note posted on the Board of Trustees calendar, decided that in response to concerns raised at the hearing, further consultation and discussion needs to occur over the proposed policy.