College OKs ‘empty holster’ protest

Young Americans for Liberty will hold an “empty holster” protest against gun control at Florida’s Santa Fe College, despite opposition by campus police. President Jackson Sasser acknowledged YAL’s free speech rights, after receiving a letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).  The “First Amendment is of paramount importance to our mission to educate students and prepare them to be leaders in our society,” Sasser wrote.

Tarrant County College in Texas refused to allow a similar protest for two years. Students sued and won, costing the college $240,000 in legal fees.

Ohio college sued for ban on protest signs

Sinclair Community College in Ohio violated students’ free speech rights by banning anti-abortion signs at a rally, charges the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in a lawsuit against the Dayton college.

On June 8, SCC’s Traditional Values Club (TVC) hosted a “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally to oppose health-care mandates dealing with abortion and contraception. Police forced participants to put their signs on the ground.

According to The Clarion, SCC’s campus newspaper, campus police have enforced a no-sign policy on campus since 1990, claiming signs could be disruptive. Distributing leaflets also is banned.

While there’s no evidence Sinclair singled out conservatives — gay rights protesters also were censored recently — it’s hard to believe the college’s sweeping ban on free expression will stand up in court.

Santa Monica CC protesters pepper-sprayed

Thirty students protesting premium pricing for in-demand classes were pepper-sprayed when they tried to storm a Santa Monica City College board of trustees meeting.

A handful of protesters suffered minor injuries as campus police tried to prevent dozens of students chanting, “Let us in, let us in” and “No cuts, no fees, education should be free,” from disrupting the meeting during a public comment period, the Los Angeles Times reported.

College president Chui L. Tsang defended the police response in a statement.  “Santa Monica College regrets that a group of people chose to disrupt a public meeting in an unlawful manner,” he added. “The college has launched a full investigation into the matter.”

Hit hard by funding cuts, the college plans to offer two-tier pricing for high-demand classes. Students willing to pay $200 a unit — four times the regular price — could get into classes while others would remain on wait lists.

The chancellor of California’s community colleges has asked Santa Monica to hold off on two-tier pricing till its legality is determined.

Seattle CC tires of ‘Occupy’ campers

“Occupy” protesters may be evicted from the Seattle Central Community College campus due to crowding, poor sanitation, drug use and complaints of sexual harassment, reports the Seattle Times. The college also faces added security and cleaning costs.

A draft of an emergency rule prepared for the state says the college needs to take action because of unsafe conditions at the encampment, including syringes and needles on the ground, drug and alcohol use, lack of hygiene facilities and other risk factors near the college child-care center.

An Occupy Seattle spokesman said the college’s Capitol Hill neighborhood was  known for drug use and transients before the activists set up their tents.

An estimated 120 people have camped in about 60 tents and other temporary structures on the college’s south lawn for more than three weeks.

Occupy Seattle declared its solidarity with community college students and staff and its desire to be a “good neighbor,” but tensions are growing, notes Inside Higher Ed.

The encampment borders the child care center’s outdoor facility, said Judy Kitzman, a college spokeswoman.

. . . workers at the child care center have spotted protesters using drugs. The college put tarps over a fence between the facility and the camping area, but Kitzman said protesters tore some of the tarps down to use in their makeshift shelters. Now she said children are restricted to staying inside during their recess periods.

Female students have complained of sexual harassment by protesters, Kitzman added.



CC bans student for Facebook complaint

Marc Bechtol has been reinstated at his North Carolina community college after being suspended without a hearing for protesting the school’s aggressive marketing of a debit-card.

Catawba Valley Community College issued a CVCC-branded debit card, which doubles as a student ID, in partnership with a financial service company with the creepy name of Higher One. To activate his card, Bechtol reportedly had to verify his Social Security number, date of birth and student number. He started receiving “credit card spam.”

Bechtol criticized the move on the school’s Facebook page. On Sept. 28, he also posted:

“Did anyone else get a bunch of credit card spam in their CVCC inbox today? So, did CVCC sell our names to banks, or did Higher One? I think we should register CVCC’s address with every porn site known to man. Anyone know any good viruses to send them?” He immediately added a second comment, “OK, maybe that would be a slight overreaction.”

When Bechtol was pulled out of class and banned from campus for two semesters, he turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which argued it was a free-speech case.

The suspension was suspended after Bechtol offered to apologize for his “poor choice of words.”

Higher One, which is based in Connecticut, has deals with hundreds of colleges and universities to create student ID cards that serve as debit cards, writes writes Bob Sullivan on MSNBC.  Colleges save money by depositing financial aid funds directly in the students’ accounts instead of mailing a check. Students get their aid quickly and can withdraw money easily. However, the cards carry high fees.

On many campuses, students are charged 50 cents for each “debit” card purchase at retail outlets in which they enter their PIN codes for verification — known as PIN-debit purchases, as opposed to signature-debit. ATM withdrawals at non-Higher One cash machines cost $2.50.

Students are charged an “inactivity fee” of $19 per month if the account is not used for more than nine months, complained an Oregon parent, who started a Facebook page titled “Ignore the Higher One Debit Card Offer.”

It’s very difficult for students to understand all the fees, wrote the Portland Oregonian last year.