New York Colleges Trying to Shut Down Free Speech

Two New York City colleges known for their vibrantly opinionated and expressive student bodies are trying to cut back on vibrant expressions of opinion by their student bodies, reports the New York Times.

City College and Cooper Union have both recently released drafts for revised codes of conduct that propose to curb both student and faculty protests after flurries of activity over the closing of a community center and the introduction of tuition, respectively.

The new draft of the hilariously titled "policy on expressive activity" for the City University of New York system (to which City College belongs) was made public in October and proposes to restrict demonstrations to "areas designated by the University or its colleges or units for that use by members of the University community... These areas do not include, among other locations, the interior of University owned or operated buildings or other facilities." Protestors would need to give at least 24 hours' advance notice to school security if a protest were expected to draw 25 or more people, and administration would reserve the right to alter protest plans, "which may include changing the location and/or date and time of the demonstration in appropriate circumstances." Demonstrations would also be prohibited during finals.

Officials claim the new proposal came at the request of CUNY faculty seeking a more coherent code across the entire university system, but the timing is a little suspicious. The code came shortly after protests by undergrads angry over the community-center closure as well as activity by faculty across the CUNY system in opposition to a new academic initiative.

Cooper Union's new rules aren't as restrictive, but since it's partially an art school, student protests there also seem to be a lot more entertaining. The school's big selling point is that although it has a nominal tuition, all students since its founding have received full scholarship to attend—until next year, when admitted students will have to fork up half the cost themselves. Since the tuition policy was first proposed over two years ago, students have staged all kinds of interesting demonstrations, from throwing 2,100 of ping-pong balls marked with dollar signs down a prominent staircase to camping out in the president's office for months (and getting pizza delivered by balloon).

That school's new code of conduct, a draft of which was leaked last month, prohibits "behavior that disturbs the peace, academic study, or sleep of others on or off campus" and "deliberate or knowing disruption of the free flow of pedestrian traffic on Cooper Union premises." But perhaps more distressingly for students, the proposed new document adds a whole new section on "authority," which gives more power to trustees and significantly scales back students' role in school discipline—including the drafting of the document itself. Far from reining in student protests, this move only seems to have added to angry students' long list of grievances.

To these two controversy-averse administrations, we merely have this to say: good luck with that.

[image via Getty]