Following long periods of public unrest, Cooper Union and CUNY are both poised to restrict the ways in which its students and faculty can protest on campus.
After Cooper Union announced that it would begin charging tuition—a practice that the school's namesake might take issue with if he were alive—students occupied the president's office and held scores of rallies in opposition to the change. Now Cooper Union has drafted a new code of conduct.
In addition to addressing matters like fire safety and drug use, the document would forbid “deliberate or knowing disruption of the free flow of pedestrian traffic on Cooper Union premises” and “behavior that disturbs the peace, academic study or sleep of others on or off campus.” A section on bullying and intimidation mentions communication, in any medium, that “disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the Cooper Union."
The occupations and a recent ping pong ball drop would almost certainly violate that clause.
The chairman of Cooper Union's board, Mark Epstein, defended the language in a statement that acknowledged the purpose of student self-governance, while at the same time, “We must also recognize the changed legal environment that surrounds our community in the modern era.”
Public Dissent: A Challenge For Modernity.
Meanwhile, CUNY's restrictions come in the wake of a string of protests against tuition hikes, the hiring of David Petraeus, and the closing of the Marales-Shakur Center, which had been the political heart of City College of New York since 1989. The regulations are even more stringent than Cooper Union's:
A draft from June declared free speech and assembly to be subject to the needs for public order. It would restrict gatherings and the distribution of leaflets to approved areas and times and would forbid faculty members from taking part in protests during working hours. Sponsors of planned protests with as few as 25 students would have to give at least 24 hours’ notice of location, date, time and expected turnout, subject to the college’s approval or alteration.