By Adam Poulisse at Pasadena Star-News
PASADENA>> The Pasadena City College Faculty Association claims that campus police illegally stopped student members of the Faculty Action Committee from distributing fliers on Jan. 21 that criticized the college’s Board of Trustees decision to cancel winter intersession and also believes that the board improperly used taxpayer money by not hiring professors and counselors.
“(Campus police) said they need a permit to pass out fliers. That’s not true,” said David Balla-Hawkins, director of Advocate Resource and Training in Sacramento, who has been hired to represent the association. “It’s not legal to violate student free speech that way.”
Campus police took their action based on PCC Student Affairs publicity procedures, which states “posting of materials without the college’s permission is a misdemeanor violation of the California Penal Code, which Balla-Hawkins claims is misleading.
The association wants Balla-Hawkins to investigate and document the incident, as well as possible Brown Act and shared governance violations.
Balla-Hawkins drafted a letter to PCC President Mark Rocha on Jan. 28 addressing the association’s claims.
PCC spokeswoman Valerie Wardlaw said the college just recently became aware of the incident and is looking into it.
The board has until Feb. 7 to respond to the allegations and provide a framework for correcting them, Balla-Hawkins said.
The board also allegedly violated the shared governance law last year by ruling against a winter intersession without input from faculty and staff, according to the association.
On its website, PCC Faculty for Student Achievement outlined five alleged Brown Act violations between Aug. 29 and Nov. 7.
Wardlaw maintains that “the Board of Trustees ensures full compliance with the Brown Act at all public meetings,” she said in a statement.
“The college has not received any formal complaint regarding any alleged Brown Act violation,” the statement reads. “The college is unaware of this group or any group that has formally raised these issues. No member of the public has ever been prevented from speaking during a public meeting as provided by the Board’s published policies and procedures. If a formal complaint is received, the college will investigate the allegations.”
Faculty Association president Roger Marheine insists that the board has “closed out students.”
“If there’s a lawsuit, I’m all for pursuing it,” Marheine said. “The college just tramples on people’s rights.”
He also charged that Rocha “has mislead and mismanaged the college for some time.”
“(The Faculty Association) is starting to try to increase their presence and to show the district we’re very, very concerned that the old style negotiations are not working,” Marheine said.
Balla-Hawkins also forwarded the letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), based in Philadelphia.
“FIRE is very concerned about the allegations raised in the letter and we look forward to finding out more information,” said Will Creeley, director of legal and public advocacy for FIRE. “We take violations of the first amendment very seriously. The Supreme Court has famously identified public campuses as a marketplace of ideas. Restrictions on rights of students to engage in protected political expression like PCC cannot stand.”