Wednsedasy, SDS received the following letter in their SGA mailbox:
Students for a Democratic Society:
It has come to the attention of the Executive Board that Students for a Democratic SOciety (SDS) has shown blatant disrespect for University Property and SGA and University Policies. Your organization has received numerous warnings from the Attorney General, the first dated October 5, 2011 and most recently dated December 1, 2011. Along with these warnings SDS has received multiple infractions within this time period, regarding serious posting violations. The Executive Branch through a unanimous decision has agreed upon dechartering Students for a Democratic Society. SDS is no longer recognized by The Student Government Association, and has thus lost all representation from the SGA, this includes but is not limited to, guaranteed meeting space for your organization and posting privileges. If SDS wishes to appeal the Executive Branches decision please contact the Judicial Branch at email@example.com. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask myself or any other members of the Executive Board.
Jared M. Shababb
Although most of the members of SDS who have seen the letter are not fazed by the dechartering process, many agree that it will be good to fight the battle and go for judicial review for the sake of the first amendment.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
For Immediate Release:
Students Denied the Right to Speak at the Board of Trustees Meetings
Several members of Students for a Democratic Society—the radical activist group that brought Bill Ayers to campus last year and occupied University President Susan Cole’s office last fall--attended the Board of Trustees meetings during the fall semester to demand transparency and accountability from the administration. The Board of Trustees is an appointed decision making body at MSU.
SDS attended meeting in October with the intention of protesting a rule that denies students the right to speak. Interestingly, the student trustees approached the SDS members and assured them that they are allowed to speak at the meetings and can speak at the next meeting if they write a letter 24 hours in advance.
Although SDS was suspicious of these claims, one student—Lisa Grab--followed the student trustees’ advice and sent a letter criticizing the structure and lack dialogue at the Board meetings. Her letter was met with opposition, and she was not granted permission to speak at the next Board meeting. Student trustee, Alex Bychkov responded to Lisa:
“Jon and I made a mistake in relaying the wrong information to you, unfortunately. And for that, on behalf of Jon and myself - I apologize. Students are not allowed to speak during the BoT public session, unless it is a special session - i.e. the tuition hearing this past April. What you can do is send your letter to Jon and I, and we will be sure to bring up those topics in the Student Report to the Board. Your voice can and will be heard.”
Although Alex says he will do what he can in his power to make sure the members of SDS’s voice are heard, SDS is unsure how effective this method will be.
Lisa Grab’s reaction to Alex’s response is skeptical:
“I am not criticizing the student trustees as individuals at all. They have been supportive and polite and offered their help. They made a mistake and gave SDS the wrong information, and that is not a problem. What is a problem is how the board meetings are structured so that everything passes unanimously without discussion and without the public having a clue what is going on. Yes, the student trustees might be able to mention our concerns at a meeting, but is that the same as allowing students to have their individual voices heard? Is that the same as being able to engage in dialogue with the board members? I am skeptical. Students cannot speak at these meetings, and I don’t know why. That’s a problem. Students are allowed to speak at Rutgers Board meetings.”
At the most recent BoT meeting on December 15th, the SDS sat in the first row of the University Hall Conference Center. Several of them chose to duct tape dollar bills over their mouths to symbolize how they are reduced to a source of money for the school and how their voice does not matter. In his address to the board members, AFT President Wolfson said:
“It’s nice to see members of both the faculty and the student body here tonight to observe this meeting. I say ‘observe’ because that’s all they can do … They are being denied what is, in my opinion, a basic right to be heard at a public meeting of a public university. Rutgers allows public participation, and many of the institutions in our sector allow public input. I think the time is overdue for Montclair to allow public input as well … No trustee ever asks a question in public, and there is never any dialog. There are only general, and positive, comments during the President’s report about this sports team or some new residence hall. There is no substantive information presented at these meetings.”
While SDS and the rest of the audience applauded President Wolfson, the board members sat in silence without commenting before moving on to the next item on the agenda.
The next Board of Trustee meeting is scheduled for February 2nd at 4:30pm. As always, the location and agenda have not been announced yet. For more information, please see the BoT Correspondence.
Written by: Lisa Grab
“Embracing Protestors” Article Filled with False Information to Slander SDS
It has come to my attention that the opinion article, “Embracing Protesters,” published on November 3, 2011, is full of errors and misrepresentations of Students for a Democratic Society. It is upsetting to see that no one has taken claim for writing the article AND that the Montclarion was not even at the event discussed in the article.
First of all, SDS did not “burst into a Board of Trustees meeting with their mouths symbolically duct-taped shut.” We quietly entered the meeting and put duct tape over our mouths 15 minutes before the meeting started. It is also important to note that the meeting was open to the public.
Second, the article says, “the protesters were not met with the type of resistance they had originally anticipated.” This is true. Instead of being ignored by the Board members, the student trustees approached the SDS members and gave them the wrong information. Similarly, the student trustees gave the Montclarion the wrong information. Jon Aronoff is quoted in the “Occupy the Board of Trustees” article, published on the same date, saying, “We let them know that if they had any other questions they can contact us. Anyone can talk at a board meeting; they are just asked to e-mail or write a letter ahead of time.” SDS was suspicious of the student trustees’ claims that they could speak at the board meetings, and SDS was proven right when, in a personal email, both student trustees admitted their error saying, “Students are not allowed to speak during the BoT public session, unless it is a special session - i.e. the tuition hearing this past April.”
The student trustees assured SDS that they would bring up any issues in their next Student Report. However, a student trustee mentioning someone’s concern is a lot different from allowing a student to actually speak his or her mind to the board or engage in dialogue with the board. Hence, what SDS was protesting holds true and is a relevant concern to all students.
Yet another error is found in the same sentence that I last quoted: “they were actually encouraged by the Board to attend the following week’s meeting where they would have their own space on the agenda to voice their concerns.” No such meeting took place “the following week,” and SDS members were not encouraged to attend it to voice their concerns. I have no idea where the Montclarion came up with this one—I don’t think even the Board members would tell Montclarion reporters this.
So, I am sorry, anonymous slanderer for the Montclarion, but public speaking is NOT a “standard practice at these meetings already”—it is 100% denied to the public. Maybe rather than stick up for an inhuman bureaucracy and argue that SDS needs to learn their rights, it is better to criticize the structures that exist for their undemocratic procedures.
More errors are found in the history that the anonymous slanderer tries to give of SDS. SDS did not “voluntarily disband in 1969 after there was an escalation in violent protests.” SDS split into two groups, the PLP and the Weather Underground; both groups continued with their forms of activism that best suited their ideologies. I would also like to ask, what “disorganization and impulsive behavior” did the original SDS use? You provide no examples, and I cannot think of any. SDS was very well organized and still is today.
It can be argued that SDS is better and more efficiently organized than the SGA, because it was the SGA whose disorganization and impulsive behavior led to misreporting about the Board of Trustees policies. Perhaps the SGA needs to investigate their own rules, as well as the constitutionality of those rules, before they start telling people they can and can’t do certain things.
Next time, anonymous slanderer from the Montclarion, do YOUR research! Question the SGA and the Board of Trustees! Know the rights that have been denied to you!
You can read the Montclarion article "Embracing Protestors" here.
Students for a Democratic Society, the radical student activist group that occupied Susan Cole’s office last semester, held a retreat this past weekend to critically reflect on what happened last semester, share organizing skills, and make plans for the upcoming spring semester.
The retreat was successful according to all who attended. Justin Wooten said, “At the SDS Retreat, we discussed our organization's progress in bringing about authentic change to our campus and the world. We move into the Spring semester with renewed commitment to bringing true democracy to our society."
SDS members and visitors held workshops on writing press releases, navigating the bureaucracy, dealing with opposition, strategic planning, the importance of forming statewide and regional coalitions, the NATO/G8 meeting this May, and Occupy Newark.
SGA legislator and SDS organizer, Ken Watson said, “For SDS’s first retreat, it went smoother than I expected. Issues came to light that are important for students to stop ignoring and deal with.”
SDS decided to hold the retreat because they believe it is important for organizations to share their knowledge and have an extended amount of time to plan for their next semester. Although the SGA holds a retreat for all organizations, SDS chose to have their own as well to discuss issues that are closer related to student empowerment.
Lisa Grab said, “I think this retreat was great, and SDS should begin the tradition of having a retreat at the start of each semester. In the future, however, I would like to invite other organizations as well so we can collaborate more easily.”
Students for a Democratic Society
14 December, 2011
MSU Board Members,
I am disturbed by the vagueness of your agenda. How can I properly write letters that comment on your meetings if I have no understanding of what will be discussed? For example--"proposed new doctoral tuition structure"--raises the questions, what is this structure, are the doctoral students aware of the change, why is the change necessary? Will the proposed structure be discussed at this meeting? Or will it be briefly mentioned and approved without the public knowing what it is?
Even more vague are the "matters presented by the chair" and "matters presented by the president." What exactly are these matters? I don't know if I should be concerned about them because I do not know what they are.
I demand a more thorough agenda with bullet points and specific descriptions about what will be discussed and decided. In addition, I demand open public sessions where the board members hold question and answer sessions with the public about the decisions being made. This will ensure that the public understands what is going on at MSU and will be able to present their concerns properly. If the decisions being made at this institution are truly representative of the publics' interests, I don't see why this would be a problem. If the decisions being made aren't representative of the publics' interests, then we have a problem, and there is no way you can pretend MSU is operated democratically.
----- Original Message -----
From: Lisa Grab <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, December 15, 2011 11:55 am
Subject: BOT meeting today
To: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Suzie Cole <email@example.com>
> Student trustees,
> I wrote to the board members, like you suggested at the last
> Board of Trustees meeting. You told me that by writing to them,
> they will allow me to speak about the topics mentioned in my
> letter. I have not heard anything from them about whether or not
> I will be able to speak. Can you mention this to them or try to
> see if they are planning on letting me speak? If not, is there
> any way I can speak during the student trustee report?
> (Remember, the SGA president failed to show up to represent the
> student voice at the last meeting; so I reasonably assume I am
> just as qualified as a person who doesn't fulfill his roles
> within the SGA and perhaps does not see his role as important
> enough to appoint someone else to speak on his behalf).
> Please let me know, as I have been looking forward to working
> within the boards system to have a voice. If this doesn't work,
> I will have no choice but to move to other methods in the
> Lisa Grab
> SDS Organizer
Re: BOT meeting today
Aleksey Bychkov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Lisa Grab <email@example.com>
December 15, 2011 12:59:06 PM
Jon and I made a mistake in relaying the wrong information to you, unfortunately. And for that, on behalf of Jon and myself - I apologize. Students are not allowed to speak during the BoT public session, unless it is a special session - i.e. the tuition hearing this past April. What you can do is send your letter to Jon and I, and we will be sure to bring up those topics in the Student Report to the Board. Your voice can and will be heard.
I was also under the impression that the right information was relayed to you by the people you say you have reached out to. If you had contacted Jon and myself earlier, prior to the day of the actual meeting, we could have added your concerns and ideas to the Student Report that will be given at today's meeting. Be sure to forward your letter to us before the next meeting, which will take place on February 5th, 2011. You can count on your ideas and concerns to be addressed in the next Student Report to the Board of Trustees.
Board of Trustees
Montclair State University
Student Center Annex Rm. 101
Jonathan Aronoff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Lisa Grab <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>, Suzie Cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Dr. Karen L. Pennington <email@example.com>
December 15, 2011 1:04:13 PM
I will be speaking today on behalf of the students. If you would like to meet before hand, let me know.
Montclair State University
Board of Trustees
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Cole's response to Lisa Grab’s email to the student trustees and her letter to the BOT members:
"President Susan A. Cole" <Susan.Cole@montclair.edu>
Lisa Grab <firstname.lastname@example.org>
email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Karen L. Pennington <email@example.com>
December 15, 2011 1:33:09 PM
Dear Ms. Grab:
I think you have a misunderstanding about what the Board of Trustees is and how it functions as part of the governance of the University. I think you also have a misunderstanding about your standing as an individual student who represents only your own views and opinions. I would be happen to discuss all this with you should you wish. Meanwhile, what follows is a brief summary explanation.
The matters on which the Board will act today have been developed, reviewed and vetted through an extensive consultative process within the University. By way of example, the action they will take on the digital language laboratory software was considered by faculty in the language departments and by associated IT professionals, and it received further review by relevant academic administrators and procurement professionals. As another example, the actions the Board will take on faculty reappointment and tenure decisions were all reviewed by the relevant department committees, department chairpersons, deans, provost, and part of the consideration in those reviews were formal student evaluations. When a matter is recommended by me to the Board for action, it has already had thorough review by the appropriate bodies within the University's structure and governance system. Then the Board committees review these matters fully, and it is important to note that two students, one voting and one non-voting, sit on committees. When the Board acts on a matter in public session, they do so because the deliberations are complete and they are ready to act. They act in public, not because that is the place where debate should occur as to whether or not a particular software choice should be made for foreign languages or whether or not a particular faculty member should receive tenure, but because acting in public assures that any interested person can know immediately what decisions the Board has made. There are no secret actions.
The students of Montclair State elect two representatives to the Board of Trustees, and, whether you personally like them or not or think they are doing a good job or not, they are the duly elected representatives of the student population. If there is something you believe they should be addressing, then you are completely free to discuss any issues you wish with them, and they are, of course, free to exercise their own judgment about what they wish to say or do about your views or ideas. For what it may be worth to you, in my judgment, I have found both of your representatives to be earnest, interested, and hardworking in their roles. Their attendance has been excellent, and they both meet with University officials regularly and ask excellent questions and share their ideas freely. Finally, as a student, you have considerable opportunities to share your ideas and concerns with members of the University community well before the Board takes action on any issue. In addition to your opportunities to participate in student governance activities, the Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life (Dr. Pennington) and the Dean of Students, Rosemary Howell, and many other members of the student affairs division are easy to see if you have concerns you would like to address.
As to your letter to the Board, which was received just yesterday, it has been shared with the members of the Board, as is the case for all correspondence addressed to them. From the tone of your letter to the Board, which is rather imperious and hostile, I get the impression that you seem more interested in creating a confrontation than in actually addressing a concrete issue. Perhaps I am wrong about that. In any event, in my judgment, the University is very fortunate in having the Board of Trustees that it does. These individuals, who serve only because of their commitment to public higher education, have been generous supporters and advocates for the University and its students. If you are looking for enemies, you are looking in the wrong place.
Again, if you would like to talk to me about any of these matters, please feel free to call my office in January and make an appointment. I would be glad to chat.
1. Montclarion article about SDS's attempt to protest the BOT meeting:
“We spoke with them and had a great conversation with them,” said Jon Aronoff, student representative for the Board of Trustees. “We let them know that if they had any other questions they can contact us. Anyone can talk at a board meeting; they are just asked to e-mail or write a letter ahead of time.”
2. Montclarion opinion article bashing SDS for their unpreparedness (should have been SGA's unpreparedness):
"If the group is protesting the loss of democratic process at Montclair, then it seems appropriate that they first understand the facilities that are provided to them, such as the University’s Student Government Association and the Board of Trustees to prevent unsupported and ineffective attacks.
This display seems to imply that instead of investigating the rules and regulations regarding general assembly or becoming involved in the already existing democratic government to change it from within, the organizers were simply protesting rights that they only assumed were being violated."
1. At the last BOT meeting, SDS showed up to protest how the public is not allowed to speak at the meetings. The student trustees immediately came up to us and told us that we could speak if we wrote a letter to the trustees 24 hours before their meeting. This proved to be false, as you can see in the above information.
2. Jonathan Aronoff was not to be seen before the BOT meeting, and when the meeting began, he went straight to his seat; when the meeting ended, he left without acknowledging SDS.
When asked in an interview to explain what the Libertarian Party stands for, Ron Paul responded: “The Libertarian party is based in the firm principle of non-aggression. We all take a pledge when we join the party that we will never initiate force against somebody else…” “You respect other people’s life; you respect other people’s property. Thou shall not steal, thou shall not murder, and it’s that simple.”
Libertarians emphasize the importance and respect of private property. For a libertarian, welfare, progressive taxation (or taxation period) constitute theft because they involve taking one person’s property involuntarily and giving it to someone else, the implicit assumption being that the first person’s claim to the property was legitimate. So there must be a way to decide whose property is legitimately whose.
One method is a fare, truly democratic system. As I and libertarians would agree, we do not live in such a system. The problem is that the wealthy use their wealth and influence to insure that policies that are good for them are adopted. The most obvious ways are campaign funding (where politicians must sell themselves to corporations in order to gain the necessary funds to be elected) and media control (as the wealthy own almost all the press, as well as all the advertizing the press depend on, they insure only views in their interests are presented). Libertarians are currently facing this problem head on in their bid to get Ron Paul nominated for President. He has received very little elite funding, and the press generally ignore him. When his performance and popularity force them to speak of him, he is denounced or dismissed.
Right now, America can be relatively open and democratic because the population is so incredibly docile; it poses very little challenge to the elite. For example, Ron Paul, who stands for a number of positions that are very much not in elite interests, does not stand a credible chance of winning the primaries, despite the fact that he also stands for a number of positions that the elites like very much. If he did win the primaries, the Republican Party would simply block his nomination. (That is not to say the campaign is a waste of time; it’s basically an awareness raising campaign). It light of the above, one might argue that we should have a more democratic system that is less controlled by the wealthy minority.
But Libertarians say that more democracy is not necessarily good. The reason is that if the system was truly democratic, people may be selfish and short sighted, and vote to have too much of the wealth of the elite taxed, or that the population might reorganize the economic system so that wealth is fairly distributed, negating the need for re-distribution, which the liberations are against. Because the general population, if given full control, might vote in a way that the Libertarians do not like, the Libertarians feel that the population must not be given full control; somehow, the wealthy minority must be protected.
The solution they present is the courts. The legislature is corrupt, in the pockets of corporations, and consistently makes decisions that are against the interests of the majority of people. Supposedly, the courts will provide objective decision making, not dependent on majority rule or the financial backing of the elites. The problem is that the courts will do no such thing. Despite lip service, courts are just as political as legislatures. How are the judges selected? They may be selected by the legislature, or by election, which comes right back to the beginning problem. Likewise, if there is a jury, that is also “mob rule” because the views of the randomly selected jury will, on average, reflect the views of the general population. Finally, the court decisions are affected by lawyer representation. For example, in a case where a very poor individual is suing a conglomerate for pollution damage to his property, he is pitted against a possibly multi-million dollar expert legal team. That would mean, again, that wealth is the controlling factor in political decision making. Is the state to subsidize him, and provide him with a state appointed lawyer? Should the state also provide him with a multi-million dollar legal team?
Coming back to the question at the beginning of this essay, how is it determined if someone’s claim to property is legitimate? It will either be decided by the general population, or by a minority forcing their plan and "vision" on everyone else, as it is done now.
If I sell you medicine, is it rightfully yours if I stole it from someone else? Is it rightfully yours if you stole the money to buy it? Of course not. The entire private property system of the US is rotten to the core, and is based on coercion. Just to speak of the most obvious and least controversial examples: The land that makes up the USA was stolen largely from the Native Americans in our genocide against them, but also from the British, Spanish, and Mexicans. Much of the capital and labor of this country came from the use of slavery and racist and sexist policies to create a second class work force. Today, this coercion continues against people in other countries, most obviously in the Middle-Eastern wars for oil, and the backing of brutal dictators in many countries who will collaborate with the US elite. Domestically, the elites continue and have always used state force to enrich themselves through subsidies, the liquidation of public assets, imposing protectionist tariffs, ensuring the education system suits their needs, corporate bailouts, currency manipulation, hiring lawyers to tip justice in their favor ect… State coercion is how the elite remain elite, and how the super rich stay so rich. The Libertarians would say that the state is all to blame for this, and that the corporations are just “intoxicated on power.” That view is blind, blind to the fact that the two are part of a vicious circle, one strengthening the other. Both institutions are legal fictions, tools for control, and both must be attacked. Corporations use their profits to control the government, and force the government to do their bidding, which interns insures the tyrannical corporations continue to be profitable, increasing their control. The government and corporations make up two sides of the same coin, and that coin is in the pocket of a billionaire.
When the Libertarians call for the sanctity of private property, what they are really saying is that challenges to the elites’ illegitimate property claims are not allowed. That is why they are against more democracy; they fear that if the general population was empowered, it would “steal” the property of the wealthy, but this is code for what they are actually saying: Libertarians fear that the population would deem the property claims unjust and invalid in the first place. Because the Libertarians would disagree with that, they feel the rich minority should continue to maintain control of the political system and be the ones to define "legitimate property" and whose is whose.
This brings us to the major contradiction of Libertarianism. On one hand, they recognize a certain level of class conflict: the wealthy are using the state to unfairly enrich themselves and often at the expense of everyone else. They are waging war and subsidizing industry and manipulating the currency and a host of other things which are bad. But the Libertarian answer is to attack only one source of elite power, the state, and to actually strengthen the other, the claims to property, the corporations. They are almost literally stuffing the pockets of their opponents with cash and power.
They claim they will achieve their reforms purely through the “market of ideas” and the system of checks and balances that the “founding fathers” benevolently bestowed on us.
Many Libertarian ideas are entirely antagonistic to this country’s wealthy elite, which means they will inevitably run up against the very people who "built this country's wealth."
Fascism is capitalism that is on the defensive. Every country that has become fascist did so in order to put down democratic uprisings of the people. As I wrote earlier in this essay, we live in a country of unprecedented freedom. We also live in a country of unprecedented passiveness. The elite do not need to spy on us (as much as in some countries), torture, kidnap and kill us (as much as in some countries), because we do not challenge them. If the libertarians actually became some sort of powerful force and challenged areas of major elite interest, they would find themselves locked out, laws and constitutions be dammed. This is already happening and has already happened. And the more the Libertarians push, the more the crony capitalists will push back. As any Libertarian will tell you, the government violates the constitution whenever convenient. As we have seen so recently, the government under Bush and “left wing” Obama is quite willing to roll back civil liberties for their corporate masters.
It’s nice to see members of both the faculty and the student body here tonight to observe this meeting. I say “observe” because that’s all they can do. There are no procedures for anyone besides you, the trustees, to speak on an issue that may be of great importance to one or more constituencies on campus. They are being denied what is, in my opinion, a basic right to be heard at a public meeting of a public university. Rutgers allows public participation, and many of the institutions in our sector allow public input. I think the time is overdue for Montclair to allow public input as well.
No trustee ever asks a question in public, and there is never any dialog. There are only general, and positive, comments during the President’s report about this sports team or some new residence hall. There is no substantive information presented at these meetings. It would be nice to know, for instance, when we can expect Science Hall or the Business School to be started. Or hear some comments about the fiscal health of our institution other than that the state has not fulfilled its obligations. Substance and dialog would be welcomed by everyone.
You should know that I don’t take my contractual rights to speak on agenda items lightly, and while I appreciate your indulgence on my occasional diversion, I am well aware that I speak mostly for the members of Local 1904. But there are also other important voices to be heard here in your public session. And I’d like to note that while I get to speak, and ask questions, I rarely get answers, or even acknowledgment. For instance, I still haven’t received a copy of the audit as passed at last month’s meeting.
But I am encouraged by what I characterize as a new awareness by our students for the social justice issues that plague our country and economy. Many of those students were at your last meeting and are again here tonight. I encourage you to talk to them when you can, and get their perspectives on issues that concern them. You’ll find it’s not only the cost of tuition that concerns them. Or the price of beer. Their issues are significant and real.
There is another group of people here tonight worth mentioning. You are conferring tenure on 18 faculty members. Some are here to celebrate that vote. Each has undergone 5 years of intensive scrutiny. They are gifted scholars, many have significant grants, they are well published, and all are excellent teachers. They have worked hard for this richly deserved moment that will provide them with job security and protection against summary dismissal. Many of these people have opportunities outside of academia but for various reasons—and perhaps the idea of tenure is one of them—they chose the life of an academic. Tenure does not diminish the flexibility of an institution like ours. It strengthens it, allowing faculty who have demonstrated their academic abilities through rigorous review to enter into areas of inquiry that are not always popular or well-traveled, and they can do so without worrying that such a line of inquiry will cost them their jobs. Their academic agendas can be dictated by their interests rather than the flavor-of-the-month as determined by a Dean.
You probably know that our state legislature has started a discussion about changing the tenure statutes, something Governor Christie has publicly stated is one of his goals. You all have been appointed by this governor, or a previous one, but if you get Christie’s ear, here are some of the things I’d like you to say.
Universities are not like businesses, where the employer has a stake in the success of the business. Our administrators work for our students, just as the faculty do. Their jobs are to facilitate the academic mission, not to turn a measurable profit.
Faculty with tenure have all gone through rigorous vetting, and this current tenure cohort has exceptional credentials. Senior administrators at our public universities undergo no such scrutiny. They get hired, some at exorbitant pay levels, and as I have pointed out here before, with no routine yearly evaluations. Are you aware that both President Cole and Provost Gingerich have tenure in academic departments? And that tenure was granted without peer review, and on an expedited time line? The conventional wisdom is that the President serves at your pleasure and the Provost at the President’s, but if you wonder why faculty should have the protection of tenure, don’t forget that our senior academic administrators are afforded the same protection, but without the rigorous review.
Montclair State University is known for its excellent faculty. Our ability to attract the best and the brightest, hinges in part on our ability to offer the protections of tenure. Allow the State to erode tenure, and those best and brightest will consider positions at other institutions, or in private industry, where they can make more money and have increased opportunity. Tenure is not broken. There is no need to fix it.
But if you want to know what is broken here at Montclair, allow public input at these meetings. You’ll hear a perspective that is not sanitized, and not top-down. Sure, some people might be angry, but others will tell you about some great things that are going on. Yes, your meetings will be longer. But it is the right thing to do, and doing the right thing is why you agreed to serve in the first place.
I wish you all a very merry holiday season. I’ll see you all here again next year. I hope you’ll bring a new, more enlightened, sense of purpose.
***This letter never had the chance to be delivered to Kyle. The SGA and administration backed down after we kept appearing with our SDS table and refusing to move. We have yet to receive word of "judicial review." SDS won the table wars***
Students for a Democratic Society
To: Kyle Bunting
We received your letter about the Judicial Review that you want to enact on us. I am saddened that you have had such a negative response to an organization that advocates for free speech on our campus. You may believe that so called "regulations" on posting flyers and tabling do not suppress student voice, but they do. Here is how:
1. The SGA attempted to censor one of SDS's flyers last semester because of a controversial picture.
2. Most of the regulated posting areas are out of the way for students and are not easily noticeable. (Please note that none of the flyers SDS posted in unregulated zones have damaged property).
3. Tabling has to be reserved too far in advance to table about current events. For example, SDS sought to raise awareness about the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis and was unable to reserve a table for this until next semester. This reservation policy restricts tabling for immediate relevance.
4. Without tabling, there is no adequate place for organizations to be visible to large amounts of students. In order to reach a wide variety of students, SDS seeks to table every day, a request that has been denied to us. I want to remind you, campus restrictions on when and where students can engage in tabling and other forms of political speech was a primary impetus for the development of the Free Speech Movement in the early sixties. (A struggle, I might add, that the students won.)
5. We believe students should be allowed to organize and get together in any public space, which includes all spaces within state universities. It is bullshit that we are limited to so called "free speech zones,” which, despite the misleading language, are actually a restriction on free speech. SDS rejects the assumptions underlying the designated areas that are regulated by soulless, fragmented and inhuman bureaucracies.
Even Susan Cole supported freedom of speech and expression in her welcoming speech this past September:
"free speech, the cornerstone of our democracy and an absolutely fundamental principle governing the operation of a free university, is very easy to defend when we like the speakers and their message ... Quite simply, none among us has the right to set him or herself up as an arbiter of which ideas or expressions others may explore. That principle is most definitely not an easy one to live with, but it is absolutely necessary that we do live with it if the university is to be the societal guardian of free expression that it should be. We must trust in the fundamental nature of the free university."
In legal terms, tabling regulations infringe on our First Amendment rights. In 2004, the Supreme Court struck down Texas Tech’s speech code and ruled that students at public universities are allowed to assemble in common areas “irrespective of whether the University has so designated them or not." In other words, students are allowed to assemble without regulation as long as they are not creating a hazard or disrupting classes. This 2004 ruling is part of a long history of struggle and progress toward protecting free speech on college campuses.
By punishing SDS for tabling and posting flyers, you are unjustly restricting students’ political speech on campus and in the process demonstrating a stunning historical blindness that I personally find abhorrent. SDS's position on this matter is not a result of carelessness or disorganization. We make deliberate and thoughtful decisions with the best interests of the student body in mind. We also act in defense of the principles of democracy and civic participation that allow our society to move forward.
We look forward to presenting our case to the SGA. Like our comrades who came before us, we will fight your attempt to smuggle restrictions on free speech into our educational system. And we will win. History is on or side. Montclair State University must allow free, unrestricted political speech on campus.
Regulated speech is not free speech,
CC: John Aspray
CC: Gil Balanzat
CC: Susan Cole
CC: Maya Curry
CC: Corinne Dodenhoff
CC: Grover Furr
CC: Aldo Guerra
CC: Jon Husarik
CC: Esha Kallianpur
CC: Tyson Lewis
CC: Mark Ludas
CC: Karen Pennington
CC: Brennan McFarlan
CC: Dennis Medina
CC: Nick Mimikos
CC: The Montclarion
CC: Kiki Naranjo
CC: Shannon O’Donnell
CC: Katherine Oakes
CC: Nick Potok
CC: Jared Shababb
CC: Greg Tuttle
CC: Ken Watson
CC: Bob Whitney
CC: Rich Wolfson
CC: Justin Wooten
 The Constitution of the United States http://www.house.gov/house/Constitution/Amend.html