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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

SODEL discusses reform to UA grounds use policy


The Students For Open Doors and Ethical Leadership assembly met Monday in Carmichael Hall to discuss proposals for grounds use policy reform.

Student representatives from the Mallet Assembly, the Women’s Resource Center, UA College Democrats, the Roosevelt Institute and at-large representatives comprised the assembly.

(See also “Student groups promote diversity“)

While no official vote was taken, SODEL debated the specifics of proposed grounds use reform at length. Three proposals were presented, and members decided to focus discussion on the idea submitted by Savannah Pendleton, a junior majoring in communication studies.

“Grounds use on campus is an important issue because it affects everybody in terms of what they can say and what they can’t and how they can express themselves,” Pendleton said. “My proposal was kind of a compromise between the two main proposals that were prepared and between what everyone in general assembly was saying.”

Pendleton’s proposal calls for the elimination of the current process for obtaining a grounds use policy, replacing it with a calendar system where applicants can register online. Her proposal also suggested the establishment of a free speech zone, a specific place on campus where any member of the UA community can speak freely at any time without a permit.

The location of the free speech zone was strongly debated. Some members favored locating it on the southeast corner of the Quad while others suggested a less prominent location, such as the lawn near the Gorgas House.

Representative Everett Secor, a senior majoring in English, disagreed with the idea of a free speech zone. Secor, who also submitted a proposal, argued that a free speech zone is itself a limitation on free speech.

(See also “Student organization to discuss campus issues, solutions“)

Henry Perkins, a senior New College major representing the Mallet Assembly, challenged Secor’s opinion.

“The fact that we don’t have a designated place for free speech is ridiculous,” Perkins said. “This is a public university. We should have a way to express ourselves freely.”

The final tenant of Pendleton’s proposal was the creation of a concrete checklist to determine specific reasons why the administration can deny a grounds use permit. A panel of two administrators, two faculty representatives, two student representatives and one representative from the Office of Risk Management would create the checklist.

SODEL President Caroline Bechtel, a junior majoring in operations management, met with the assistant vice president of student affairs to discuss the planned proposals.

“I think it would be really positive for students,” Bechtel said. “We’ve been working with the administration in the creation of these proposals, so they are really aware on that end. It should make everything easier in terms of whether there are grounds use permits getting approved for an event and the resources available to students and groups on campus.”

The assembly plans to finalize amendments and vote on Pendleton’s proposal at its next meeting March 31. Afterward, it plans to submit the proposal to both SGA and Faculty Senate for supporting resolutions before presenting it to the administration.

(See also “SODEL hosts forum for SGA candidates“)

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