The Butler Community College Board of Trustees’ discussed the right to protest on campus
The subject about the right to protest on campus opened for debate at the Butler Community College Board of Trustees’ monthly meeting Tuesday evening. Following several incidences two years ago, staff at the college began working on a first amendment activities policy. The goal of the policy is to set boundaries in which a group of students or citizens could practice their first amendment right of freedom of speech on the campus without disrupting the campus.
“The new policy that I’ve presented to the board today outlines the 1st amendment activities and what will be allowed on campus,” explained Vice President for Student Services Bill Rinkenbaugh. “We’re a public entity and we have to think about the safety of our students. In this new policy, we have identified where the students or people from the community could practice their rights without posing a danger to anyone else on campus. We do not have a policy on record outlining where students and citizens can express their freedom of speech. This gives the parameters and specific guidelines for those actions.”
“Are these policies similar to what other colleges have in place?” questioned Trustee Dr. Greg Joyce.
“This policy has been reviewed by legal counsel Ray Connell and is very similar to what other institutions currently have in place,” said Rinkenbaugh. “If someone comes onto the campus unannounced to stage a protest, we can show them this policy. It gives us some authority over actions on our campus.”
Rinkenbaugh went on to explain the college does not grant to individuals an unlimited license to engage in activity which limits, interferes with or otherwise disrupts the normal activities of the college and does not grant unrestricted use by non-college groups.
The policy is intended to balance the college’s responsibility to fulfill its mission as an education institution in Kansas with the interests of non-college groups who are interested in coming onto the campus for purposes of constitutionally protected speech, assembly or expression.
Some of the trustees began to question the power of the policy in regards to regulating the size and location of groups it might affect.
“If we had a large group come out, how do we handle that in regards to public safety?” asked Joyce
“If we see it is a large group requesting to enter the campus, we can utilize our department of public safety,” said Rinkenbaugh. “If we believe the group is going to disrupt the campus, we can use this policy to limit its numbers. We’ve had groups come out and disrupt things on the campus. If this happens while we have this policy in place, we will distribute the policy when we are contacted in regards to the protesting. It gives us the right to protect our campus.”
Rinkenbaugh went on to explain in order for a group to enter the campus, a notification of intent must first be submitted to the vice president of Student Services no later than one week prior to the event along with the name, address and telephone number of the individual group, entity or organization sponsoring the event, the name, address and telephone number of a contact person for the organization, date, time, requested location of the event, the nature and the purpose of the event, the type of sound amplification devices to be used and the estimated number of people expected to participate. The policy also restricts the size of signs to 2 feet by 2 feet, restricts the location to a limited public forum space for all campuses, restricts the length of the event to five hours, prohibits the solicitation of funds and prohibits any demonstration associated with an event to occur inside a college building.
Upon review of the policy, the trustees began to raise questions of the validity of the policy in regard to Kansas and Constitutional law.
“I’m not sure whether or not this is a valid policy,” said Trustee Jim Howell. “I have some reservations about the policy and I’m not sure if it’s a violation of Kansas law or if it is in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“I don’t have a fire burning under me to get this policy approved immediately,” said Rinkenbaugh. “I don’t have a group that’s ready to come onto campus tomorrow to protest. I have no problem sending it back to our legal counsel for review.”
“If this is going to be a policy of the institution, I want to be sure it doesn’t violate any law,” said Trustee Chair Ron Englebrecht. “I would like to send the policy back for review.”
The board, following the discussion, moved to submit the policy for an updated review and the issue was tabled for a later date.
Continuing with the theme of ever-changing policies, Butler President Dr. Kimberly Krull approached the board with a language change for the Hubbard Welcome Center and College Facilities Use Policy as it relates to the allowance of alcohol being served on campus.
“We have had in the past some requests to serve either wine or beer on campus,” began Krull. “ Wine is sometimes requested to be served at receptions or art galleries. The current policy restricts that activity to this board room or to one room downstairs. It will be an update to the board of regents policy. We have also tightened down some guidelines regarding this policy change: the activity has to have approval from me, it has to have an invited guest list and student organizations are prohibited from serving liquor at an event. The change in wording for the policy would also include the verbiage that restricts tobacco products on or in college property.”
Krull went on to explain the alcohol use policy would place extended restrictions on the serving of alcohol on the campus for receptions. The service of alcohol liquor at such events, once approved by the president, may only be held in non-classroom areas of the campus, persons under the legal age or who appear to be intoxicated are restricted from consuming alcohol, food must also be available at all functions where alcohol is to be served and no alcohol may be served except by a licensed caterer. The policy also prohibits beer kegs because they are a poor reflection of the college.
“Basically the change in policy expands our ability, under very tight control, to allow wine or beer to be served at very specific events on the campus that are not in classroom areas,” said Krull.
“It seems like the reason for the change in policy is for the allowance of alcohol in the arts and theater building,” said Wilson. “Why not just add those specific spaces to the current policy?”
“I could imagine events in the Grizzly Den as well as the Kansas room on more than one campus,” said Englebrecht.
The question was then raised whether the alcohol was required to be served by a licensed caterer despite the private guest list restriction to the policy.
“You can’t serve alcohol unless the caterer is licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol,” said Howell. “It doesn’t matter whether its free or whether you have to pay for it, but there are exceptions in the statute for private parties. If we’re unsure of the limitations, we can always ask a contact at the bureau.”
“We could approve the new policy stating that it is subject to modification at a later date,” said Joyce.
Englebrecht moved to approve the policy as written, but noted the possibility of a modification following review of the policy. The motion was carried 5-0.
The trustees also:
• accepted the resignation of Trustee member Sara Hurd. Following the acceptance of her resignation, a notice of vacancy will be scheduled to publish in a local newspaper for 15 days outlining the qualifications and process for a member of the public to submit a letter of application for the open position. Following the deadline, the board will review the applicants in at the April 15 board meeting and approve the new member. The new trustee will be sworn in during the regularly scheduled May meeting.
• reviewed the tuition, fees and residence halls rates for 2015. Following the discussion, the Trustees elected to gain further clarification on several key issues regarding the fees necessary for housing out-of-state and international students. The trustees then tabled the issue for discussion at a later date.
• approved the retirement of Dennis Anderson, Behavioral Sciences staff member for 20 years.
• approved the retirement of Jeff Cole, associate dean and staff member of the college for 22 years.
• approved the retirement of Bill Langley, biology instructor, department head and staff member since 1984.
Kari Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.