It’s that time of year again.
On March 2, many UCSB students will vote for the 3rd District supervisor for Santa Barbara County. This election means different things to different members of our community. For some of us, it is a chance to work on our first political campaign. For others, it is a chance to ensure that the elected official most representative of unincorporated Isla Vista shares our values.
But for those of us who work in the judicial affairs branch of the Office of Student Life, it can be a frustrating time. Every year, we receive complaints from students and student groups about various posting concerns on campus. During election season, these complaints often involve nefarious activities and shenanigans in the weeks and months leading up to an election. This March will be no different. I have already had two visitors from opposing camps stop by my office to confirm this. Among the most common concerns are: posting violations, amplified sound, and stolen or vandalized signs.
Complaints about posting violations are the easiest to address, although our roles and obligations are sometimes misunderstood. The Office of Student Life maintains posting regulations for much of the campus in the interest of regulating the time, place and manner of postings, but never the content. Details concerning UCSB’s posting policies are available on our website, http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/Regulations, and hard copies are available from our office. The most common questions we receive involve message content, acceptable posting locations, posting requirements and who may – and should – take down postings.
We may not, and never will, regulate in any way the content of postings that comply with our regulations, even if others find them offensive or troubling in some way. We cannot allow students to tear down the postings of other students whose message they disagree with, even if they believe the message to be a “lie”. Doing so is a violation of campus regulations and would subject the censor to possible disciplinary action. We are a public campus subject to the First Amendment, and the best way to fight speech you disagree with is with more speech containing better arguments.
When postings are old or in violation of our policies, we take them down. If you are concerned about a posting that you feel is in violation of campus policies, please let us know. You should, of course, remove your own postings after the event is over.
Posting on campus must be done in the name of a registered campus group, and the posting must clearly contain the name of the sponsoring student group. Posting locations are also limited. For example, signs are not allowed, for safety reasons, in the circular grass area at the bike loop near Storke Tower, nor on any sidewalk, window, tree, lamp pole or bike path railing. Sidewalk chalking is not allowed for any reason. Posting violations may result in fines for the student organization involved. More importantly, chalking makes our beautiful campus less attractive, and the chalk runoff can be environmentally detrimental.
As for those few individuals who go around tearing down or vandalizing the signs of their political or ideological opponents, we will be looking for you this year.
We have asked the campus police department and community service officers to pay special attention to this problem. I also encourage any community member with information about vandalism or theft of postings to let our office know.
Any student caught interfering with the free speech rights of other community members must be held accountable in order for our community to remain a place dedicated to the pursuit of truth and reason. Without the debate and discussion prompted by various viewpoints being made available for our consideration, we will have failed in this mission.
Brandon Brod is UCSB’s conduct educator and hate incidents response coordinator.