Once again, Keene State College, a public institution, has received a red and yellow light rating in the same areas that infringed upon our First Amendment rights when this issue was brought to light back in 2015.
The Foundation from Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) rates public and private colleges and universities all over the country on whether or not the policies restrict student’s First Amendment rights.
Previously in 2015, KSC received a red light for its discrimination and discriminatory harassment policy and a yellow light for its event planning policy.
Now, as the 2016 fall semester is winding down, nothing has changed.
The college received the same ratings again on Sept. 7, 2016.
To gain a better understanding of how FIRE’s rating works, refer to The Equinox’s article “Red light: KSC policies receive negative free speech rating” posted on March 10, 2016, or visit thefire.org.
What troubles us most at The Equinox is that the college has been aware of these negative ratings and has yet to correct the issue.
This is especially concerning since the college indicated back in March 2016 that the hope was to have a response to these policy allegations by the end of last spring’s semester.
In that article, KSC’s Special Assistant to the President for Human Resources Carol Corcoran said, “She and the administration hoped to have had a response to the policy allegations before the spring 2016 term was over.”
With the 2017 spring semester nearing closer we wonder when this response will be given.
We at The Equinox feel that all of us here at KSC and on campuses all over the United States are entitled to exercise their First Amendment rights, while occupying an appropriate public space.
The Equinox wants to see the college align its policies with the law and not suppress the student’s voice by restricting our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
It is stated in FIRE’s mission that, “The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that expressly prohibits the United States Congress from making laws ‘respecting an establishment of religion,’ prohibiting the free exercise of religion, infringing freedom of speech, infringing freedom of the press, limiting the right to peaceably assemble, or limiting the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The protections of the First Amendment are extended to state governments and public university campuses by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
KSC explicitly violates our right to peaceably assemble, hence why it received a yellow light in event planning.
As it stands with our current policy, students who are interested in holding a peaceful assembly, protest or any gathering of the sort must go through administration and get approval.
Once that approval has been granted, those students are only allowed to hold their peaceful demonstration on the lawn outside of the Young Student Center on the edge of Appian Way.
The college should not be allowed to dictate when and where students are able to express their thoughts, ideas, feelings and opinions.
The college can’t control us and disregard our very rights to freedom of speech.
The Equinox asks the college to take action as soon as possible and adhere to the law and allow the students their First Amendment rights in all ways.
Since KSC is a public college, students should be able to exercise their first amendment rights just as they would anywhere else in a public space. We at The Equinox don’t just want to see a plan made, as the college has had more than enough time to resolve these policies.
We at The Equinox want to see action being executed toward establishing better policies around discrimination, discriminatory harassment and event planning.