Letter to Chancellor Goldstein regarding the refusal to allow the General Assembly to happen in the Hunter Public LobbyPosted: October 22, 2011
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I feel compelled to inform you of the egregious denial of student rights that myself and about 50-60 other CUNY students experienced while attempting to hold the first CUNY General Assembly last Friday, October 12, at Hunter College in order to discuss issues that affect us all as students in this university system.
The meeting began around 4pm by the black sculpture outside of the West Building, immediately it began to rain. We decided to take cover by the windows of the bookstore, but as soon as we were comfortable there (sitting on the floor), the entire ground became wet with runoff, and again we decided to move, this time indoors to the public lobby of Hunter West. One young woman went before the group to inform security that we were coming in to get out of the rain, she was first informed that only Hunter students would be allowed to enter, which didn’t make any sense since any CUNY student is allowed to enter any CUNY campus, then a Hunter student attempted to enter and he was denied access. At that point, I observed the first young woman speaking with a man in plain clothes inside, I entered the building and listened as she excoriated him for denying her access since she was a third generation CUNY student. After her exchange, I introduced myself to this man as a graduate student from Hunter and also as a NY State Court Officer by presenting my badge and ID. I asked him on what grounds he was denying CUNY students the right to use a public lobby in a facility that they pay for. He answered that he would not allow us to enter because he wouldn’t allow us to be a disruption. In response, I said that if it was a Wednsday and there were 100 people in the lobby and 100 people past the turnstiles with people coming and going that it would be loud in here, and we weren’t going to be loud. If we were inside then only one person would need to speak at a time because we would be indoors and everyone would be able to hear. He repeated his original sentiment that he would not allow us to be a disruption. I then asked him for his name and title, which he said was Lou Mader, The Head Of Public Safety and Relations. I thanked him for his time, and I went back outside where the GA was underway, except it was being conducted right in front of the doors, so Mr. Mader who is in charge of all the safety of the campus preferred to have us block the entrance and exit way, potentially causing a fire hazard than allow us indoors of a building that we pay tuition to use.
I have researched Hunters website on Public Safety and I read the Rules and Regulations for the maintenance of public order pursuit to article 129A of the education law. It states, “The tradition of the university as a sanctuary of academic freedom and center of informed discussion is an honored one, to be guarded vigilantly. The basic significance of that sanctuary lies in the protection of intellectual freedoms; the rights of professors to teach, of scholars to engage in the advancement of knowledge, of students to learn and to express their views, free from external pressures or interference. These freedoms can flourish only in an atmosphere of mutual respect, civility and trust among teachers and students, only when members of the university community are willing to accept self-restraint and reciprocity as the condition upon which they share in its intellectual autonomy.
Academic freedom and the sanctuary of the university campus extend to all who share these aims and responsibilities. They cannot be invoked by those who would subordinate intellectual freedom to political ends, or who violate the norms of conduct established to protect that freedom. Against such offenders the university has the right, and indeed the obligation, to defend itself. We accordingly announce the following rules and regulations to be in effect at each of our colleges which are to be administered in accordance with the requirements of due process as provided in the bylaws of The City University of New York:
1. A member of the academic community shall not intentionally obstruct and/or forcibly prevent others from the exercise of their rights. Nor shall he/she interfere with the institutions educational process or facilities, or the rights of those who wish to avail themselves of any of the institution s instructional, personal, administrative, recreational, and community services.
2. Individuals are liable for failure to comply with lawful directions issued by representatives of the university/college when they are acting in their official capacities. Members of the academic community are required to show their identification cards when requested to do so by an official of the college.
3. Each member of the academic community or an invited guest has the right to advocate his position without having to fear abuse, physical, verbal, or otherwise from others supporting conflicting points of view. Members of the academic community and other persons on the college grounds, shall not use language or take actions reasonably likely to provoke or encourage physical violence by demonstrators, those demonstrated against or spectators.”
Clearly, our academic freedom was denied, as well as our rightful access to our campus facilities. I urge you, Chancellor, to address this egregious violation of your students rights–students that pay your salary, students that are upset with many issues regarding their education and subsequent livelihood. This–happening–is only a microcosm of an awakening that is occurring around the world. We expect more students to attend each General Assembly, and for it to take hold in all CUNY schools. Please listen to your students grievances, please help us create a better CUNY system that gives credence to those that help to sustain it through their tuition. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter of vital importance.
Anthropology Graduate Student