Bill would assault rights

The bad behavior of college students has been a hot news topic of late, and a lot of the interest has been generated, rightly or wrongly, by incidents at Chico State University. Hazing deaths and near-deaths and frat house porno productions have triggered calls for action. Everybody, it seems, is climbing on the bandwagon to crack down on student behavior.

The danger, of course, is in overreaching. An example of this is Senate Bill 337, from Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa-Maria. If passed and signed by the governor, SB 337 could have a decidedly chilling effect on dissent and protest on and near the state’s college campuses.

Intended to crack down on out-of-control parties and celebrations, the law would cast a wider net that could lead to the prohibition of student protest, a time-honored activity on the American college campus.

The bill forbids assembly for the purpose of disturbing public peace, which is pretty much the definition of a protest or demonstration. SB 337 strikes at the right to dissent publicly and is a further assault upon our dwindling civil rights.

We are further troubled by the remarks of Chico Police Chief Bruce Hagerty, who says students are guests here. Not true; they live and pay taxes and vote in Chico. A student is no more a guest in Chico than, say, a bank president or police chief who happens to make a career stop here.

We urge our state and local representatives not to support this bill. Don’t play politics with people’s rights.