November 22, 2011
To: The Baruch College Community
Last evening, Baruch served as the site for a hearing convened by the CUNY Board of Trustees, which regularly uses NVC 14-220 as the location for all of its public meetings, during which it received comments on the proposed four-year tuition increase that is before the board. Approximately 100 people signed up to make oral statements to the board and to senior CUNY officials. As a result, NVC 14-220 was filled to capacity; and by prior arrangement, an overflow location was established in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Vertical Campus, equipped with a live video feed of the hearing. When a large group of students, some from Baruch but many from other campuses in CUNY and elsewhere, arrived at the 25th Street entrance to the NVC, they were informed that there was no space in the hearing room, and they were directed to the Multi-Purpose Room to watch the hearing via a live video feed. Some accepted this invitation, but others demanded access to the building and refused to leave when asked to do so. CUNY public safety officers moved forward to alleviate the crowding in the lobby when it became a public safety concern.
Chancellor Goldstein’s Nov. 22 CUNY-wide communication addresses the events that were related to the public hearing. Of course, Baruch currently does not have an outdoor public space—i.e., a "quad" or plaza—where students, faculty and staff can gather peacefully to express their views. (We are working to remedy this problem, but it will take time to accomplish.) The space in the lobby of the NVC was clearly inadequate to accommodate the size of the crowd that was seeking to enter the building, and city fire codes would not permit more people to be admitted to NVC 14-220. Fortunately, however, I am advised that there were no serious injuries either to the students or to the public safety officers on the scene.
I intend to work with the chancellor and other officials at CUNY to do everything possible to avoid a repeat of this situation in the future. Free expression is among our most cherished individual rights, and nowhere is this more the case than on a college campus. We must find a way to protect public safety while at the same time allowing students to express their views in a peaceful and orderly fashion.
Mitchel B. Wallerstein
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