MOREHEAD CITY — The Carteret Community College Board of Trustees adopted a free speech and public assembly policy Tuesday in response to protests going on across the nation.
“We didn’t have a policy. When George Floyd died and protests started happening, we felt we needed a policy in place to be proactive,” CCC President Dr. Tracy Mancini said following the trustees’ meeting held in the Crystal Coast Civic Center.
Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died May 25 after a Minneapolis, Minn., police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck after he was already handcuffed. The arrest, which was caught on video, sparked nationwide protest against police brutality.
“Now we have an outline if someone wants to have a public assembly,” Dr. Mancini said this week of the CCC policy. “So far no one has asked.”
Prior to the adoption of the policy, she said the only document where gatherings were addressed was in the student code of conduct.
“That really addressed if someone was disruptive on campus,” she said.
It’s taken three readings to get the policy adopted as trustees tweaked details. During the September meeting, trustees decided to have board attorney Derek Taylor review the policy before they took a final vote.
Tuesday, there were still differences in opinion regarding a paragraph that gave a detailed description of the posts and signs that could be carried during an assembly. Trustee Mat Zettl said the extreme detail given of the size of posts would be difficult to enforce.
“I think we need to eliminate that from the policy. It would be difficult for security to take a tape measure to make sure it’s the correct size,” he said.
Other trustees agreed, and in the end Trustee Robin Comer moved to adopt the policy without the paragraph.
“We can always go back and amend the policy if we feel we need to work on the paragraph and add it back later,” he said.
His motion passed unanimously.
A portion of the paragraph in question stated: “Carry or possess any length of metal, lumber, wood or similar material for purposes of displaying a sign, poster, plaque or notice, unless such object is one-fourth inch or less in thickness and two inches or less in width, or not generally rectangular in shape, such object shall not exceed three-fourth inch in its thickness or dimension…”
Dr. Mancini said the college had taken that portion of the proposed policy from Morehead City ordinances.
“When we were developing the policy, we researched what other colleges had, as well as what the town of Morehead City had so we would be in compliance with their ordinances,” she said.
As for the approved policy, a portion states: “The college will protect the rights of freedom of speech, petition, and peaceful assembly and students may exercise those rights within the bounds of this policy. Students are authorized to exercise this right freely as long as the exercise of this right does not violate applicable rules of the college, substantially disrupt normal operations of the college, or substantially interfere with the rights of others. Students engaging in such disruptive activity may be subject to disciplinary action and/or criminal prosecution…”
The policy then lists several things that are prohibited, including threatening passersby, inciting violence or imminent lawlessness and substantially and materially interfering with, impeding or blocking the flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
Once the amended policy is completed, it will be under Policies and Procedures on the college’s website, carteret.edu.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.