The Associated Students (A.S.) Senate met Wednesday in the Flying A room to accept the resignation of two senators, discuss internal matters and host public forum, which included several students calling for First Amendment reform at UCSB.
Jason Garshfield, fourth-year political science major, introduced the issue saying, “This right of free expression is under threat at UCSB.” Garshfield presented an article from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (F.I.R.E.) which gave UCSB at a “red light” rating regarding freedom of speech and expression at the University. According to F.I.R.E., a red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.
According to Garshfield, UCSB’s recent implementation of a “Bias Response Team” poses a threat to students by limiting speech which is labeled as offensive.
Garshfield proposed drafting a resolution in support of free speech to respond to F.I.R.E.’s rating and improve student freedoms.
“Free speech is not a point of pride right now. It is a point of shame, and we should all be ashamed at how our university has completely ignored the perfectly legitimate concerns of a perfectly legitimate civil rights organization,” Garshfield said. “Making bigotry something that cannot be expressed does not make it go away… it makes it a black market good.”
During the question portion of Garshfield’s presentation, Senator Jerel Constantino addressed the senate asking whether Garshfield was a member of the “White Student Union” Facebook group. Garshfield responded to the point saying, “I’m a Jew, but it’s good to know that suddenly I’m a white supremacist.”
Brandon Morse, fourth-year political science major, said the election code of the student senate also contends with true freedom of speech. Morse described the current university policy as “a regulatory framework that violates the constitution.”
“The freedom to speak is clear, it’s not up to interpretation. With that being said, the definition of what’s racist is up to interpretation as well,” Morse said. “I’ve been told that as a straight, white male I can not experience racism, but that does not mean on an individual level, you cannot be disparaged.”
Morse urged the senate to consider Garshfield’s resolution.
“I may not agree with anything or everything that one of you says but I will certainly fight to the death to protect your right to do so,” Morse said.
In response to Morse, Senator Akshaya Natarajan suggested the current university policy exists to aid marginalized groups who may be educationally restricted by microaggressions and offensive speech.
UCSB alumnus Derek Dimpfl said limiting speech is, in fact, extremely harmful to student growth and education.
“I fear that our culture has forgotten, or chosen to forget in whole, or in part, how fortunate it is to have such protections … for what they protect us from is much more frightening than that which they expose us to,” Dimpfl said.
On-Campus Senator Nawar Nemeh and College of Letters and Science Senator Stevan Abdalmalik both submitted their resignation letters to A.S. Senate earlier this week and presented brief parting messages after public forum.
“Being at this table, you have an extreme amount of power. I don’t know how many of you know it, but you have the power to alleviate the struggles of human beings. That is an amazing power.” Nemeh said. “I please ask you to weigh every single vote before you make it, to weigh it seriously in your heads as to how it will affect every student on this campus and every community out there.”
Nemeh said he was leaving due to personal reasons.
“I’m resigning, mostly for personal reasons. I thought I owed you all I guess an explanation as to that I want to refocus on my academics, I want to refocus on research that I’ve been doing,” Nemeh said. “I have an internship that I have been neglecting at the U.S. State Department that I need to be putting more time and effort in and I really do want to look more after my family.”
Abdalmalik did not disclose the reason of his resignation, but also had a brief parting in his letter of resignation, read during the public forum portion of senate.
“In a final farewell, I leave you with this final task: Continue to uphold what’s best in our university, our student body and, most importantly, of yourselves,” Abdalmalik read from his resignation letter. “Hold yourselves to a higher standard, be inquisitive and, most importantly, be self-reflective and self-critical.”
The resignations were passed in a Senate vote of 15-4-3.
“A Bill to Restructure the A.S. Fellowship Program” and “A Bill to Amend Article VI of the Constitution & By-Laws to Incorporate a Transfer Senator” were sent to campus affairs while “A Resolution to Ensure Continuity Within the STV Implementation Committee” was sent to immediate consideration and passed the same night.
A version of this story appeared on page 5 of the Thursday, January 21, 2016 print edition of the Daily Nexus.