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State senator: Students’ free speech protected

City News Service

The author of California’s laws that protect student speech on Tuesday reminded University of California and Cal State students and faculty that they cannot face disciplinary action by administrators for engaging in protected speech.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, also urged any student or university worker who is unlawfully retaliated against to contact his office by calling his San Francisco office at (415) 557-7857, in San Mateo at (650) 340-8840, or e-mail at

senator.yee@sen.ca.gov

.

“In light of what is happening at our public universities, it is imperative that students, student journalists and workers know their rights,” Yee said. “Speech that is otherwise protected off campus is also protected within UC and CSU. The administration has no legal basis to retaliate against or discipline students and staff for lawful protest.”

Police at UCLA arrested 13 students and an alumnus early Friday at the “Occupy” camp in Wilson Plaza — something about 40 faculty members denounced in a letter to Chancellor Gene Block, The Daily Bruin reported. On Monday, a group called “Occuparty at UCLA” set up in Bruin Plaza, and others pitched tents in front of the J.D. Morgan Center.

Yee’s 2006 law, AB2581, made California the first state to specifically prohibit censorship of student publications.

The law prohibits “any administrator of any campus from making or enforcing any rule subjecting a student to disciplinary sanction solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside a campus, is protected from governmental restriction by specified provisions of the California Constitution or the United States Constitution.”

A 2008 law, SB1370, also authored by Yee, extended these same protections to professors, teachers, advisors, and other university employees.

“While a student at UC Berkeley, I protested during the People’s Park movement of the late 1960s, and I thus understand the frustration many students and their families are currently facing,” Yee said. “They are right to stand up to the UC and CSU administration, which seems more interested in taking care of the top executives than addressing the needs of our students and low wage workers.”

At UC Davis, police pepper sprayed a group of student protesters there on Friday -- something for which the chancellor apologized but still prompted calls for her resignation among faculty members.