by Matt Camara
South Coast Today
DARTMOUTH — UMass Dartmouth students had better keep quiet.
A university policy restricting public assemblies to an official "public forum space" creates a "chilling effect" on student willingness to protest or engage in political demonstrations, students and faculty told The Standard-Times.
"It says in this spot and this spot only can you protest," said philosophy professor Phil Cox, who describes the policy as unconstitutional. "It's a very unfortunate compromise of students' rights."
The public forum area, commonly called the "free speech zone" by students and faculty, encompasses a patch of grass 75 feet southeast of the campanile at the center of campus and bordered on each side by walkways.
Assemblies in the space are banned after midnight until 6 a.m. and megaphones or other noise-making devices can only be used with permission from university administrators, the policy, posted on the university's website, says.
"My thought is that they put those (rules) in place to prevent students from demonstrating," said Brian Pastori, a 2008 graduate of UMass Dartmouth who protested the policy when it was created.
UMass Dartmouth spokesman John Hoey countered that the university does allow protests outside the zone with prior permission from administrators and defended the policy as necessary to ensure demonstrations do not interrupt university functions or services...