UCLA administrators instructed a student government officer Tuesday to remove a pro-LGBTQ display following a dispute over display guidelines.
Jamie Kennerk, Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president, said she set up the display this week, which featured photographs of LGBT and queer elected officials with a pride flag wrapped around a tree across from a religious activist on Bruin Walk shouting remarks about the LGBTQ community with a bullhorn.
Pamela Cysner, the student affairs officer for Student Organizations, Leadership, and Engagement, said Kennerk was asked to remove the display from the tree and place it elsewhere. SOLE is responsible for organizing and scheduling registered campus organizations’ events and displays on Bruin Walk and in Bruin Plaza.
SOLE’s UCLA Regulations on Activities, Registered Campus Organizations, and Use of Properties General Provision 12 states posters and signs cannot be affixed to trees or poles. Kennerk said she did not originally plan to tie her banner to the tree, but wanted to avoid blocking walkways.
Kennerk said SOLE called to confiscate the display if she did not remove it. Kennerk added she ultimately removed it because she did not want to lose it permanently.
Cysner originally told her the display must be removed, Kennerk said, because the fire marshal had deemed it a hazard and because environmentalists at UCLA opposed hanging the flag on a tree.
Eugene Volokh, a distinguished professor of law, said legal protections differ based on whether the university designates an area as a public forum.
“A sidewalk is a designated public forum, and Bruin Walk sounds like a limited public forum that the university opened up to students and even to outsiders, but the trees are not,” Volokh said.
Kennerk said she believed her display was in compliance with SOLE procedures because it was not blocking a walkway and because SOLE did not interfere with similar displays in the past. SOLE responded by saying the same would be asked of any group in the same situation or when there is a higher level of activity.
Cysner said SOLE regularly checks Bruin Walk to ensure display guidelines are enforced consistently.
Kennerk said she thinks current SOLE policy can obstruct student organizing because it can take up to weeks to get displays approved while the events they want to respond to typically occur at a more urgent pace.
“There are plenty of times when our organizing is proactive and we plan in advance, but sometimes it’s reactive to something that is happening right in front of us,” Kennerk said.
Kennerk said she thinks SOLE should have a procedure to expedite display approval in response to ongoing events.
“It can be tricky to define what types of situations require faster approval (from SOLE), but this shouldn’t inhibit us from making that policy,” Kennerk said.