Free Speech Challenges in Real Time

A University of California conference on freedom of expression become a microcosm of the battles of freedom of speech that are regularly held in American college campus after student activists showed up at the event in Washington on Thursday and speakers interrupted to advocate increases for graduate teaching assistants the system.

The handful of students representing COLA for all, a group pushing for a cost $ 1,412 monthly adjustment of living, or tail, to teach attendees all UC campuses, sometimes they stood in front and interrupted speakers and panelists at # SpeechMatters2020, which was organized by the National Center of the University of California for Freedom of Expression and civic engagement. The protesters, who are studying in downtown Washington of the university system, said it was ironic that the conference addressed how institutions should allow activists campus of respect express themselves, while at the same time, conference organizers protesters moved to the side of the stage to keep their posters blocking audience members view the speakers on the stage.

Protesters signs describing information about teaching assistants on strike held in California and calls on the UC President Janet Napolitano, who sat in the front row, to resign.

Michelle Deutchman, executive director of the center, told students they could stay but could not interrupt speakers. She uses the language recommended UC Irvine included in its "prevent and respond to disruptions in real time."

It was "appropriate" to witness a live demonstration at a conference centered around protests in universities and how they are managed, said Akshita Gandra, a student at the University of California Davis, who attended the conference and is a recipient of an open and Conversation Rate inclusive and granting commitment to the National Center of the University of California. Gandra said he understands the frustration of protesters on the salaries of graduate students, that has been a constant problem since he arrived at the Davis campus four years ago.

"It may have been good to let them have five minutes with the microphone to talk about the cause," said Gandra protesters.

protesters Missy Hart and James Jazleez accused the conference leaders to silence them.

"Why blame me?" James said that since being sidestepped the conference stage. "It goes along with the tactics that the university uses to silence us. Yes, everyone has access to freedom of expression, we are allowed to demonstrate, but we do so under? "

Protesters compared their treatment at the conference of clashes between police and protesters in the University of Santa Cruz, as earlier this month when 17 protesters on campus were arrested for conspiracy and failure to disperse. Teaching assistants have been protesting and striking since December and demanding a wage increase to help them meet the high cost of living in California.

Students graduating from UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara on Thursday joined the strike - labeled a strike "wild" because it was not accepted by the United Auto Local Workers 2865, the union representing 19,000 workers students in the UC system. graduate students at the University of California at Santa Cruz who participate in the strike refused to submit grades for fall semester 2019, and graduate students from UC Davis will do the same for the winter period, reports The Sacramento Bee.

James said the strike, now spreading to other UC campuses will have a domino college students Indeed, some of whom have not received their degrees fall and classes of risk He has canceled.

"As college students, we are not protected by anything," James said. "So when I can not get my classes, or any other person can not continue their education ... they are not going to realize that."

Hart and James said they and others were frustrated by the refusal of Napolitano participate with them in the conference, which James calls a "show".

administrators who face the protests on their campuses are "sailing dangerous waters," Deutchman said during an interview before the start of the conference. He said he is in favor of institutional leaders struggle with balancing the rights of students to express and protect the rights of students who feel harmed by certain types of speech.

"I have great admiration for them, not only because they are the ones who are being criticized sometimes, but sometimes are in the position of having to defend the right of someone to come to school," he said Deutchman.

Napolitano did not address or acknowledge the protesters who remained silent and held up signs during his keynote address at the start of the conference. But in an interview the day before the conference, she discussed some of the university administrators face challenges when planned events and speakers spark controversy.

"Sometimes protest activity takes the form of actually shutting down the speech," Napolitano said. "It's a difficult problem for college administrators - you bring all students on charges of student behavior? Do you try to make arrests? You just apologize and move on? That is a decision-making framework that university rectors have to go. "

When the time came for the final panel of the conference, which Napolitano and others were scheduled to speak de'perspectivas executive on campus free speech 'Deutchman announced that the conference had spent the allotted time and the panel was canceled. Protesters said they planned to use the panel as an opportunity to meet Napolitano on increases for teacher assistants.

"The protest and participation are not always easy, and often can reshape our agendas, as they did today," Deutchman said after the conference concluded. "But they are still vital to the proper functioning of our democracy, and today we had the opportunity to see live in action."

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