By Ian Finkenbinder
The relationship between Occupy Seattle and Seattle Central is nothing if not controversial. As soon as the first tent was set up on the south lawn at SCCC, accusations of drug use and sexual harassment were met with assertions that the school was engaged in a propaganda smear campaign in order to remove the homeless contingent that had joined Occupy Seattle.
In the months that followed Occupy’s peaceful withdrawal from the campus, the activist network has moved on from fighting the educational institution’s restrictive policies, until the New City Collegian reported on a quietly-scheduled and non-publicized meeting that the Board of Trustees set up in order to vote in further restrictions on protests in the Seattle Community College District.
Occupy Seattle acted quickly, responding with a press release denouncing the move and promising a presence at the meeting:
“During the school break, it has quietly been announced that the Board of Trustees will be meeting on Tuesday, March 27th 2012 in order to pass new rules regarding protests that take place on-campus. This meeting, contrary to the rules laid out by the Chancellor’s office requiring notification of a local newspaper, has not been widely disseminated and is taking place when the student body is out of school. This presumably is an attempt to prevent student outcry regarding the rules.”
“Occupy Seattle opposes the limitation of free speech and the right to assembly, and recognizes that these rules negatively affect the student body of Seattle Central Community College, a group of bright individuals with a tradition for participation in activism. We urge you to join us at the Board of Trustees meeting at the following address on Tuesday, 3PM at 1500 Harvard Ave.”
Since Occupy’s announcement and the initial reports from the NCC, the Seattle Times has picked up the story, once again drawing SCCC into the spotlight in a controversial manner.
This seeming history of contention and confrontation is not so cut-and-dry however. What may seem like a rebel band of activists antagonizing an educational institution isn’t the entire story. For one, it seems to only be administrative elements of the school that are interested in restricting the right to peaceably assemble on community college campuses.
Before, during and after the occupation of SCCC an outpouring of support from students and faculty members inundated the administration with both physical and online petitions, and now the NCC has learned that the Seattle chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and Associated Student Council has taken steps to address the issues of the 99% as highlighted by Occupy’s activities.
Possibly inspired by the City Council resolution passed in November in support of Occupy Seattle’s activities and message, AFT Seattle passed a resolution, similarly worded and structured, that calls on the School District to re-examine its business practices, particularly as pertains to banking. Titled “Resolution in Support of Business Practices Congruent with the Message of the Occupy Movement”, it resolves the district must end business ties with Bank of America and Koch Bros.-affiliated corporations. After all, the school operates on a $113 million budget without specific procedures in place to assure ethical business practices.
This was passed in December of 2011, while an identical proposal and resolution was ratified by the Associated Student Council the following February. There has been no indication from the administration that they will follow through on the resolution.
While these have not specifically addressed issues of free speech, many students, faculty members, and members of the community are asking: is now really a time to curtail the right to assemble on Community College property? As of the time of this writing, members of the AFT, ASC, and Occupy Seattle are planning to attend this controversial board meeting.
More updates as they come.