District revises speech code after student editors, advisers express concern

CALIFORNIA — The Riverside Community College District revised the district’s speech code yesterday after delaying the adoption of the code to address concerns about the possibility of censorship of the student media.

The board of trustees voted 4-0 in favor of the new revision at a meeting Tuesday night, according to an article in The Press Enterprise, a regional newspaper. Unlike the original draft of the revision, the version adopted yesterday includes a footnote specifying that the code does not apply to the student media.

The speech policy revision provoked concern before the footnote was added because it declared that Riverside Community College was not a public forum or limited public forum.

Student editors and advisers in the district, who said they were already worried about the possible effects of the Hosty v. Carter decision, felt threatened by the policy revision. In that case, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that a student newspaper must be designated as a public forum for editors to have strong First Amendment protection. The 7th Circuit has jurisdiction in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

"I very much appreciate that the administration took our concerns seriously," said Sharyn Obsatz, adviser to the Norco Voice, one of three student publications in the district.

Linda Lacy, vice chancellor of student services, said the revision adopted was "absolutely" agreeable to all parties involved.

"We didn’t have any dissent at all, nobody spoke against it," Lacy said.

In addition, administrators have formed a committee to review the school’s student publication policy, which has not been revised since 1980, Obsatz said.

Lacy, who chairs the committee, said the group has already had one organizational meeting and she hopes to have a revised student publications policy approved by the board of trustees in April.

Among other goals for the policies revision, Lacy said, "we want to make sure freedoms are upheld."

Kim Peterson, SPLC staff writer