Silencing Free Speech

The ASI Senate continues to grapple with the First Amendment

 By Alejandro Ramos News Editor

The issue of free speech continued to be a topic of discussion for the ASI Senate at their meeting on Nov. 8.

Jeff Klaus, Associate Vice President for Student Life and Development, gave a presentation outlining some of the ways the school is addressing the issue. He presented Freedom of Speech, a page on the CSU Long Beach website that is meant to be a resource for students to learn about and better understand how freedom of speech works on campus.

Klaus also briefly went over the “Time, Place, and Manner” regulations that are used to oversee speech on campus. In short, the regulations state that the campus will allow speech that is offensive and disagreeable as long as it does not lead to physical violence. That is how several groups, such as the pro-life advocates, are able to return regularly to campus despite the reactions from students.

Senator-at-large Thulani Ngazimbi took exception to the explanation of the current rules and engaged Klaus in a back and forth discussion on the finer points of free speech and its regulation.

Ngazimbi pointed to Brandenburg v. Ohio, the landmark Supreme Court case that set the precedent that speech will be regulated if it incites an imminent threat. With that idea in mind, he made the case that certain speech, like the graffiti found in a men’s restroom on campus last month, can be threatening to Black students and make them feel unsafe.  

The conversation between Ngazimbi and Klaus lasted over 10 minutes and was the highlight of an otherwise run of the mill senate meeting. It ran so long that several agenda items had to be tabled for future meetings.

The discussion was not limited to those within the ASI Senate and faculty. Christopher Orozco, a senior psychology student, gave an impassioned speech on the matter long before it was brought up later on in the meeting. He asked, like others before him, for the ASI Senate to take a stand against hate speech on campus.

“We're just standing by and watching other people take over,” said Christopher Orozco, senior psychology student. “It's time for [us] to stand up and start engaging.”

Toward the end of the meeting, the ASI Senate turned their attention toward Resolution SR2018-12, which directly pertains to free speech. After a couple of minutes of deliberations, several senators proposed postponing the vote on the resolution to a future meeting, since time was running short. Ngazimbi was among those in support of postponing the vote.

“It’s good because it allows us more time for actual strategizing that gives the students something substantial,” said Ngazimbi.

The vote was ultimately postponed on the pretense of giving the resolution a proper amount of time to look over and review. It marks a turning point for the senate, after numerous students have used the public comments portion of past meetings to ask that their senators take a stance.