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Monday, January 25, 2021

Remove the free speech zone and keep peddlers off campus

The free speech zone at Pierce is an annoyance to students, offering little benefits to their educational progress and goals.
Located on the Pierce Mall across the library, the free speech zone is a sanctioned area that exists as a “limited public forum,” according to the LACCD Board of Trustees’ rules concerning free speech at community college campuses.
Anybody can set up inside the zone, saying or displaying virtually anything they’d like. While the area is not to be used to disturb the everyday operations of the campus, this is often the case.
While religion and politics are touchy subjects, it’s common to see religious or politically charged individuals set up in the free speech zone, preaching or handing out pamphlets while making signs and sometimes shouting bold statements.
Large signs riddled with strong religious script and posters of Barack Obama with Adolf Hitler’s signature mustache photo-shopped on to his upper lip are just a few controversial displays seen on past occasions.
These exhibitions serve as a distraction to students who are just trying to go about their daily business, and can offend or cause discomfort to people with different views or beliefs.
According to the rules set by the LACCD Board, free speech zone users are not to impede the progress of passersby or coerce them into signing or taking anything.
This rule is commonly broken, as individuals will often leave the confines of the free speech zone to pass out fliers or attract attention to their booth or setup, while more egregious offenders will sometimes position themselves in completely different areas of the campus, far from the designated area.
The free speech zone is hard enough to avoid as is, due to the fact that it’s located in a hub of campus activity. Sometimes the only defense against being accosted is to try and take a wide path around the area.
It’s unfair that there are rules in place to help users of the free speech zone reach as many students as possible when so many of the same users violate other rules without getting reprimanded.
The free speech zone has little educational value, becoming a place that many students try to avoid. It should not offer a free pass for unwanted advertising or preaching at the expense of community college students.

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