SACRAMENTO – The author of California’s law to protect student speech and press rights reminded University of California and California State University students and faculty on Tuesday that they cannot face disciplinary action by university administrators for engaging in protected speech activities.
Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who authored the law in 2006, also urged any student or university worker who is unlawfully retaliated against to contact his office.
“In light of what is happening at our public universities, it is imperative that students, student journalists and workers know their rights,” said Yee. “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.”
As part of Yee’s 2006 law, which made California the first state in the nation to specifically prohibit censorship of college student press, AB 2581 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, (SB 1370) – 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,” said Yee. “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.”
Yee is urging all UC and CSU students and employees who are retaliated against or face disciplinary action as a result of their peaceful protest to contact his office in San Francisco (415-557-7857) or San Mateo (650-340-8840).
Response to Police Actions
Yee issued the following statement on Wednesday in response to University of California President Mark Yudof’s plan to have former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton undertake a 30-day fact-finding of the pepper spray incident at UC Davis and to have UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. lead a system-wide examination of police protocols as they apply to protests at the 10 UC campuses:
“While I applaud President Yudof’s action to conduct an ‘independent’ review, his plan ignores the insight, knowledge, and leadership of UC students. Students deserve more than just a seat on a panel; they should be integrally involved in this investigation and at the forefront of any effort to change campus police protocols and policies. Simply calling on ex-law enforcement officials and university executives doesn’t cut it.
“While pushing this under the rug for 30 days may lessen the media attention, it doesn’t take that long to realize that there was police misconduct and a failure of administrative leadership. Requiring over a month to hold individuals accountable for a fiasco of this magnitude is unacceptable.”