New policy limits students ability to assemble


At the end of the United States Constitution, there are the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Since Congress cannot inflict on these rights, should Guilford College be able to? I think not.

There is a new change in the 2017-2018 student handbook under the Peaceful Assembly Policy. If a group of Guilford students or a student organization decide they want to hold a protest, they would first need to submit an application form to the Department of Public Safety at least 48 hours prior to the protest. The application must include the location on campus where the event will be held, the proposed date and time of the event, the purpose of the event and the estimated number of participants. All entryways to buildings must be accessible, pedestrian and vehicular traffic around campus must be clear, classes and other events cannot be interrupted with amplified noise and all other Guilford College policies must be followed.

Yes, I do agree that a protest should not include any sort of graffiti or vandalism, loud disturbances or block roads. If a protest does include any of these aspects, College officials should be able to ask the group to disperse and potentially place consequences. However, there is no reason for the protest to need an application and to be approved ahead of time. If the College must approve the protest first, this means that they could potentially deny a protest if they disagree with the matter. If a protest does not cause any damage or significant disturbances, then why should College officials have the option to shut it down? What if students decided to protest this addition to the handbook?

Under the Compliance with the Peaceful Protest Policy section of the handbook, “Everyone is expected to comply with the directions of College officials who are acting in accordance with the performance of their duties. Failure to do so is a violation of campus conduct codes and is subject to sanctions as outlined in Student Code of Conduct.” For Disorderly Assembly, a student may potentially be fined, their coach and/or parent will be notified and may have five hours of community engagement.

To fight this new rule, a student could speak to a College official who could work to reverse the rule or potentially start a petition. But what if these strategies are ignored? Protests are oftentimes the only way that officials or leaders will pay attention to an issue. But students cannot even protest the rule about protesting without receiving consequences.

These additions are absurd and should not be included in the handbook. Freedom of speech and assembly should be respected on a college campus, especially since one of Guilford’s core values is justice. The College cannot say that they are committed to the peaceful resolution of conflict if they will not allow the students to fight for what they believe in without getting shut down. If a student decides to protest, they should not be punished if their actions are nonviolent and do not cause significant issues.