The policy is: There is no policy
Communication major Betty Wright enjoys the intricacies and beauty of daily planners; Wright designs and sells her creations online. She’s also become a knitting hobbyist too, known online for her scarves and beanies.
Wright spent the first couple of weeks on campus actively pursuing the campus posting boards, searching for fellow students interested in the same hobbies. Finding nothing, she considered placing flyers on a table in the lounge searching for other students with similar interests.
It was through this process that a larger problem came to light: The university has no clearly stated policy regarding publicly posted flyers. Although there is no official policy in the University’s Student Handbook, University Communications Guide, or Student Services library, each of these departments have implemented in-house procedures governing the dissemination of printed materials. Procedures which have some students crying foul.
In addition to everyday flyers, the larger issue here is whether students may, without prior restraint or approval, pass out flyers either supporting or denouncing topics such as abortion, political ideologies, socio-economic issues, religious interpretation, or otherwise divisive subject matter? It’s a question that no student, faculty, or staff approached could provide a clear answer to.
“The question I want to have answered is why the university doesn’t have a written policy?” Wright said. “You can’t post on this board unless you are an organization, you can post on this one but the flyer has to be approved. Says who? Where is the policy written? The entire situation is complicated and restrictive.”
A small issue to some, some students say it could become more of an issue as the campus grows. With the growing trend of social and political activism present on a national scale, now would seem the best time for Texas A&M-San Antonio to solidify a policy.
University protests have seen a large spike over the last two years, a national trend on the rise. College campuses across the nation have seen protests and riots broadcasted on national television — something Texas A&M University-San Antonio has –thus far– remained distanced from.
As a result, universities are facing increasing tension and scrutiny over what administrators are calling the balance between protecting students from “hate speech” and allowing students avenues to express themselves openly.
The Office of Student Activities, responsible for implementing university policies for student organizations and campus posting boards, does not have a written policy for student organizations which detail a policy governing posting boards.
Christina Dominguez, Student Activities coordinator, addressed this concern by outlining plans to formally draft and publish a written policy on the matter in the very near future.
“The plan is for the university to have a written policy for the Fall 2017 semester, which will directly address all the issues related to printed materials,” Dominguez said. “We may have it out sooner than that.”
Student Services plays a small role in a much larger issue. Currently, Student Services are responsible for student organizations and interest groups, which comprise only 10 percent of the student body. Which policy would govern the other 90 percent of students?
Erika Almanza, Risk and Compliance coordinator at Texas A&M-San Antonio, explained that each department oversees internal policies governing their respective areas of concern. She said she was unaware of any university policy which governed printed materials and their dissemination by students on campus. Rather, she deferred this publication to the university Branding Guide as reference.
Brandon Oliver, Creative Design Manager for University Communications, explained the Branding Guide and provided a historical understanding of why the university employs this practice.
“For the longest time, people were unable to tell you what Texas A&M-San Antonio’s school colors were, they didn’t know we had a logo. Flyers and other printed materials were not easily recognized to be from students and organizations of Texas A&M-San Antonio.” Oliver said. “Now we have a consistent format, covering font, color, design, etc. I understand how some students could feel like their freedom of expression is being targeted. That is not our intentions, or how we approach the situation. We want to help brand student organizations, and the university’s future.”
Oliver added, “If I have time, I often take the corrective actions for the students, to align with the Branding Guide.”
What no one has been able to provide, in the process of reporting this story, is a written policy — in black and white terms – outlining the university’s stance on the matter.
In the meantime, the university continues to grow, and more students are expected to arrive with open minds and a strong desire to change the world. A desire which will see the need for just such a policy.