By Malak Habbak
A problem that the Cal Poly Pomona Office of Student Life & Cultural Centers faces is the failure of some solicitors to adhere to campus policies, which has contributed to an ongoing, uneasy relationship between non-commercial solicitors and the campus community. These types of solicitors include off-campus, non-profit visitors such as petitioners, and environmental, religious, political and humanitarian organizations.
OSLCC Student Life Leader and sixth-year biotechnology student Binbin Li said there are some non-commercial solicitors who don’t know the rules set by the university.
“In order to get a permit and be in the free speech area, you actually have to go through our office,” said Li.
After OSLCC verifies that the organization is non-profit and makes sure they did not exceed the cap on five appearances per quarter, the office issues a permit in the form of a sticker nametag. Non-commercial solicitors are instructed to wear their nametags at all times.
If students don’t see a nametag sticker, Li said, they should let OSLCC know and not engage with the solicitor.
Student Involvement Coordinator Anita Roberts said that non-commercial solicitors who don’t adhere to campus rules have claimed their free speech rights.
OSLCC does not have control over the solicitor’s content, but the Education Code and California Code of Regulations shows that free speech can be limited through time, place and manner.
Non-commercial solicitors are only allowed to promote their causes Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the northeast area of University Park in the manner that it does not interfere with university operations (including classes); obstruct traffic; are carried out with shouting or amplification equipment; include deliberate provocation, harassment or disturbance (including prolonged or repeated contact with persons who have declined); and generate an unreasonable level of refuse. In addition, there can be no false or misleading advertising, and solicitors cannot distribute materials on vehicles.
In relation to the 15 organizations that checked in with OSLCC in the past month, four instances of “illegal soliciting” have been cited, according to the University Police’s Media Log.
But the term “illegal soliciting” at CPP is used rather loosely.
“It’s more of a campus policy, as far as [the solicitors] have to go through the proper channels and get a permit,” said Sergeant Ken Kerkhof.
Kerkhof said that although campus policy violations are common, illegal acts, such as misdemeanors, are not as common and are inherently more difficult to identify.
Misdemeanors include delaying or obstructing a public officer; unlawful assembly; remaining at a place of riot after being warned to disperse; disturbance of peace at the university; interfering with lawful business; failing to leave when asked to by the university president or designees; and obstruction of traffic or public places.
Kerkhof said that University Police are called once or twice a week by students or OSLCC when visitors don’t comply with campus rules.
“We get called out a lot for solicitors, because sometimes students walk by and the solicitor’s a little aggressive [and] doesn’t want to accept no for an answer,” said Kerkhof. “Part of their job is to be persuasive”but my advice to students is just walk away. Don’t let them bait you.”
Second-year architecture student Marcus Castile expressed his frustration with non-commercial solicitors.
“I think sometimes they make it kind of difficult to walk around,” said Castile. “After class you’re tired and you got them in your face like, ‘Read this thing about religion or abortion.’ I feel like they’re trying to push their opinion on me.”
Last year, Castile was confronted by a vegan organization and said their methods made him “uncomfortable.” Castile said non-commercial solicitors need a better way to approach students.
“They should have an understanding that not everybody is into this [their cause],” said Castile. “Ask people who are interested, [be]cause pushing it on everyone just makes people feel uncomfortable and it’s just not right.”
Other students, such as fifth-year psychology student Aries Franko, recognize that being bold is effective.
“I think that’s what people need in order to process [a particular idea] and think about it twice,” said Franko.
Roberts said solicitors don’t have to be a problem.
“They offer valuable information,” said Roberts. “It’s good for students to engage even if they disagree” but certainly we don’t want to students to feel unsafe or harassed or continuously be approached for something.”
Monica Lopez / The Poly Post
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