April 30, 2013

U.A. Indefinitely Tables Protest Policy Change

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The University Assembly motioned to indefinitely table a resolution that aimed to clarify the university protest policy at a meeting Tuesday evening. Members reached a consensus that the language of the University policy is unclear and that they should not move too hastily in changing the policy without further information and community feedback.

Spurred by criticism of its handling of a confrontation between the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee and Students for Justice in Palestine on Ho Plaza last November, the University has examined the purported inconsistencies between its Campus Code of Conduct and its enforcement of policy.

The proposed policy change would amend the Campus Code of Conduct to clarify the requisite procedure students should follow when using University property for protests, stating definitively that a permit is not required, though students would still be able to submit them.

Still, a permit would still be recommended, which was a source of confusion to many at the meeting. This lack of clarity was continually brought into question.

“There’s a lot of discussion about the meaning of various words,” said Dean of Faculty Joseph Burns, Ph.D. ’66.

Burns raised the possibility of the policy not needing to be changed at all.

“I think it’s generally agreed that the Ho Plaza incident was mishandled. I don’t think that necessarily means that the rules have to change,” Burns said.

Burns noted that the Faculty Senate was actively investigating the Ho Plaza incident and working on issuing a formal report.

Voting on the resolution prior to the release of that information would be premature, he said.

“It seems to me as though we’re sort of rushing to get this out, and I don’t see anything that will hurt by waiting until the fall,” he said.

Max Ajl grad, a member of SJP who coordinated the demonstration in November, echoed Burns’ sentiment.

“I don’t think you can have an accurate sense of what procedures need to change until you have an accurate sense of how exactly those procedures broke down,” he said.

Darlene Evans, senior lecturer for the Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, a self-described “witness” of the Ho Plaza incident, addressed similar issues. The proposal “tacitly allows the same thing to happen again,” she said.

Evans also expressed concern that the assembly did not yet have all the information necessary to vote and cautioned that the U.A. proposal would result in a “further restriction” of the freedom of speech.

Prof. Rachel Weil, history, a member of the codes and judicial committee, said she voted against this proposal because “I find it confusing.” Although the policy states that a permit is not required, there is still a sense of strong encouragement to obtain one, according to Weil. Furthermore, it is unclear how free speech works within “reasonable time, place and manner restrictions,” she said.

Prof. Risa Lieberwitz, industrial and labor relations, highlighted what she described as fundamental flaws in the U.A.’s proceedings.

“Procedure so far violates U.A. charter and bylaws,” Lieberwitz said.

“There’s no public notice of the agenda for this meeting,” she said. There also has not been adequate time to receive comments and debate the changes, according to Leiberwitz.

Student Assembly representative Peter Scelflo ’15 motioned to table the resolution, saying, “I absolutely think we need to keep this conversation going a little bit longer.”

Original Author: Talia Jubas