City College Chicano/a Studies professor Justin Akers Chacón speaks in support of a resolution reaffirming the San Diego Community College District’s commitment to free speech and academic freedom next to guest attendees and M.E.Ch.A students, March 4, 2024. The resolution, which was introduced by Chicana/o Studies professor America Martinez, was co-authored by Martinez, Mona Alsoraimi-Espiritu, Norell Martinez, Octavio García and Chacón. Photo by Keila Menjivar Zamora/City Times Media
City College Chicano/a Studies professor Justin Akers Chacón speaks in support of a resolution reaffirming the San Diego Community College District’s commitment to free speech and academic freedom next to guest attendees and M.E.Ch.A students, March 4, 2024. The resolution, which was introduced by Chicana/o Studies professor America Martinez, was co-authored by Martinez, Mona Alsoraimi-Espiritu, Norell Martinez, Octavio García and Chacón. Photo by Keila Menjivar Zamora/City Times Media

BREAKING: City College Academic Senate passes resolution affirming free speech, academic freedom for Palestine solidarity expression

Over 40 community members, students attend meeting

The San Diego City College Academic Senate passed a resolution on Mar. 4 calling on the San Diego Community College District to affirm its commitment to free speech and academic freedom concerning the expression of Palestinian solidarity.

San Diego community members, including those from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Al-Qalam Institute, lined the walls of the meeting room, where they spoke in favor of the resolution during an extended public comment section to begin the meeting.

“Since October 7, the silencing of Arab, Muslim and Palestinian voices is astounding on school campuses,” said Tazheen Nizam, executive director of CAIR. “We urge you to not do the same on this campus, to allow students and faculty to express themselves.”

After the debate period in which a majority of the feedback from faculty and community spoke in favor, the resolution passed in an anonymous ballot vote with 21 in favor, four against and four abstentions.

City College Chicano/a Studies professor America Martinez speaks in support of the resolution she introduced and co-authored, March 4, 2024. “I will not cower and I will continue to teach about Palestine, and I will continue to support my student’s actions around Palestine,” Martinez said. Photo by Susana Serrano/ City TImes Media

Before the resolution debate, SDCCD Chancellor Greg Smith attended the meeting as a guest speaker, he said, to be transparent in the district’s decision-making process for taking a Palestinian solidarity poster down from a public-facing window in the MS Building.  

“I’m here with two intentions. One is to understand, to hear from you, and the other is to help create understanding,” Smith said.

The chancellor used his time to clarify the decision process behind taking the student-made Palestine solidarity poster down from the window.

He also listened to comments and feedback from attendees who expressed their support for the resolution.

San Diego Community College District Chancellor Greg Smith, left, speaks to the public at the San Diego City College Academic Senate, March 4, 2024. Smith attended the meeting to clarify the SDCCD’s position on the removal of a Palestine solidarity poster from City’s campus and to understand the public’s position on free speech and academic freedom as it relates to Palestine solidarity expression. Academic Senate President-Elect Mona Alsoraimi-Espiritu sits to his right. Photo by Susana Serrano/City TImes Media

Brin Balboa, a project assistant at Mesa College who saw a Palestine solidarity teach-in canceled at Mesa said, “I would hope that with this resolution being passed, it will also push for the protection of new faculty, project assistant part-timers like myself for being able to practice our First Amendment, as well as academic freedom.”

Associated Student Body President Diego Bethea and Inter-club Council President Irela Cota were present, as well as members of M.E.Ch.A. of City College.

The debate period started with a motion to change the traditional open public voting method to an anonymous ballot vote, which was approved.

Around the same time as the City debate, faculty at Mesa College were introducing a similar resolution calling on the district and Mesa to reaffirm their commitment to free speech and academic freedom in relation to Palestine solidarity speech. 

Mesa College will hold the debate and vote on Mar. 18.

City Times Media Managing Editor Keila Menjivar Zamora contributed to this story

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