Cal Poly warns stu­dents about protest­ing

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY NICK WIL­SON nwil­[email protected]­bune­news.com

Five Cal Poly stu­dents who protested the re­la­tion­ship be­tween de­fense con­trac­tor Raytheon and the uni­ver­sity at a fall cam­pus ca­reer fair say school of­fi­cials are try­ing to in­tim­i­date them from ex­er­cis­ing their free speech rights.

Cal Poly stu­dent Kelsey Zaza­nis said she and four class­mates of the SLO Peace Coali­tion peace­fully demon­strated at an Oct. 4 ca­reer fair over Raytheon’s ties to the uni­ver­sity as a donor and job re­cruiter, call­ing for the uni­ver­sity to “di­vest from the war.”

Cal Poly’s Code of Con­duct poli­cies pro­hibit “demon­stra­tions that would dis­rupt events that are not open to the gen­eral pub­lic,” said uni­ver­sity spokesman Matt Lazier, adding he can’t com­ment on the specifics of the protest, cit­ing stu­dent pri­vacy laws.

But Zaza­nis said the event at the pub­lic uni­ver­sity was “made for stu­dents, and all of us pre­sented our Cal Poly IDs for en­trance. We were not tres­pass­ing as their state­ment im­plies.”

The stu­dents sang protest songs near Raytheon’s job re­cruit­ment ta­bles and dis­played mes­sages taped to their shirts, ex­press­ing their view that Cal Poly shouldn’t be as­so­ci­ated with a com­pany that pro­vides mil­i­tary weaponry, such as mis­siles, used in “il­le­gal killings of in­no­cent civil­ians across the world,” Zaza­nis said.

“Proud to be a stu­dent, though we see right through your greed, for killing all across the world for that war money,” the stu­dents chanted.

For­mer Raytheon ex­ec­u­tive Wil­liam Swan­son gave $10 mil­lion to the uni­ver­sity’s golf pro­gram in 2015 and $100,000 to the jour­nal­ism depart­ment in 2017, and the Mas­sachusetts-based

com­pany also has do­nated lab equip­ment to Cal Poly, among other gifts.

A Raytheon so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity publi­cist didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment Fri­day.

The stu­dents protested for about eight min­utes be­fore po­lice es­corted them from the event at the Rec Cen­ter; the group left with­out re­sis­tance, Zaza­nis said.

But the stu­dents later re­ceived let­ters from the uni­ver­sity, warn­ing them of Cal Poly’s Code of Con­duct, which cites a “Time, Place, and Man­ner” pol­icy in re­la­tion to demon­stra­tions on cam­pus.

Cal Poly Of­fice of Stu­dent Rights & Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties Di­rec­tor David Groom stated in a let­ter to Zaza­nis, “you are not be­ing charged with a vi­o­la­tion of the Code of Con­duct at this time” but “if you are in­volved in fu­ture sit­u­a­tions … you will be be re­ferred to Stu­dent Rights & Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties” for dis­ci­plinary ac­tions.

The let­ter states that Zaza­nis has been warned twice about Cal Poly’s “Time, Man­ner and Place” pol­icy, cit­ing her in­volve­ment in a protest last year.

But Zaza­nis said she was “never pre­vi­ously warned” and, in fact, was vin­di­cated by the uni­ver­sity for a sim­i­lar protest last April against Raytheon’s con­nec­tion to the cam­pus, also in­volv­ing singing and chant­ing near the com­pany’s re­cruit­ment area at a ca­reer fair.

Groom sent Zaza­nis a let­ter, shared with The Tri­bune, stat­ing she was “NOT RE­SPON­SI­BLE” (in cap­i­tal let­ters) for vi­o­lat­ing Code of Con­duct rules af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Groom’s of­fice, and Zaza­nis said the Cal Poly of­fice cleared the other hand­ful of protesters, as well.

“It makes no sense that Cal Poly would find us not re­spon­si­ble last year and then say we were warned about the pol­icy,” Zaza­nis said. “I think they are try­ing to in­tim­i­date us be­cause Raytheon is a ma­jor donor. It’s re­ally scary that they’re bend­ing their code. I learned from this that they aren’t held to any stan­dard.”

Zaza­nis added that Cal Poly has re­peat­edly de­fended free speech rights in high-pro­file cases that many on cam­pus found of­fen­sive, in­clud­ing an in­ci­dent in April when a stu­dent wore black­face, deemed as racist by many.

The uni­ver­sity also has cited free speech re­lated to a “Free Speech Wall” hosted by Cal Poly Repub­li­cans on which anti-Mus­lim, trans­pho­bic, sex­ist and other mes­sages have been scrawled.

And the uni­ver­sity has re­peat­edly cited free speech when right-wing provo­ca­teur Milo Yiannopou­los twice spoke on cam­pus (Cal Poly and the Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity sys­tem spent a com­bined $86,200 to pro­vide se­cu­rity at a fake news panel event in May and $55,400 in se­cu­rity costs for his talk in 2017), ac­cord­ing to Tri­bune re­ports.

In re­sponse, Lazier said Cal Poly sup­ports the free speech rights of “all of its cam­pus com­mu­nity mem­bers and vis­i­tors.”

“The uni­ver­sity en­forces its poli­cies and pro­ce­dures con­sis­tently and with­out con­sid­er­a­tion of the po­ten­tial in­volve­ment of any donors or other part­ners,” Lazier said.

Lazier gen­er­ally re­ferred The Tri­bune to the uni­ver­sity’s Code of Con­duct pol­icy, but it’s un­clear what spe­cific lan­guage in the “Time, Man­ner and Place” rules trig­gered the warn­ing let­ter to Zaza­nis and other protesters.

Lazier said gen­er­ally that the ex­er­cise of free ex­pres­sion shouldn’t in­ter­fere with “uni­ver­sity func­tions, im­peril pub­lic safety, ob­struct or dam­age uni­ver­sity fa­cil­i­ties, or cause in­di­vid­u­als to be­come au­di­ences against their will.”

Lazier added that the Oct. 4 Ca­reer Fair wasn’t open to the gen­eral pub­lic, and stu­dents were re­quired to show stu­dent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, though Zaza­nis em­pha­sized the protesters did so upon en­try to the event.

“The of­fice reg­u­larly is­sues let­ters to stu­dents — not only let­ters that out­line sanc­tions in the cases of pol­icy vi­o­la­tions but also let­ters that coun­sel and ed­u­cate stu­dents on how to avoid any pos­si­ble pol­icy vi­o­la­tions in the fu­ture,” Lazier said. “An ex­am­ple would be a warn­ing let­ter no­ti­fy­ing a stu­dent that if they again en­gage in re­ported be­hav­ior that vi­o­lates uni­ver­sity pol­icy, a pos­si­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tion and sanc­tions could re­sult.”

But Zaza­nis re­it­er­ated the stu­dents were found “not re­spon­si­ble” last spring.

“De­spite their claim, Cal Poly does not en­force their poli­cies and pro­ce­dures con­sis­tently,” Zaza­nis said. “They have never in­ves­ti­gated much larger dis­rup­tions of non-pub­lic events. Our Raytheon ac­tions are the only protests that have been both­ered by” the Of­fice of Stu­dents of Rights & Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

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