ASI receives warning from ACLU

An email regarding the policy of recording meetings that Associated
Students, Inc. President Selena Farnesi composed was forwarded to
the ACLU by a member of the Senate. The ACLU asked ASI to stop
enforcing its unlawful prohibition of recording meetings.
James Ramirez / The Collegian

The American Civil Liberties Union told ASI the public has a right to record meetings

Associated Students, Inc. has received a cease and desist letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California regarding  President Selena Farnesi’s enforcement of cellphones during an open Senate meetings.

After the Feb. 15 Senate meeting in which senators were seen using cellphones, Farnesi sent out an email to the ASI listserv addressing the issues that have come up in previous meetings.

In her email, which was obtained by The Collegian, Farnesi cites the dress code, cell phone policy, speaking out of turn and the policy on recording meetings.

Farnesi wrote: “Neither public meeting laws nor the First Amendment give anyone the right to record public meetings. Additionally, it is unlawful to record anyone without their permission. If you would like a recording of the meeting you can access it from our live feed. No one should be recording the meetings independently, especially since no one has come to any member of the staff or executive team to ask permission to do so.”

Farnesi said that only people within ASI received the email, which means somebody internally forwarded the email to the ACLU.

Senator Jose Luis Nava said later that he forwarded the email to the ACLU.

“It would have dragged on if the ACLU didn’t step in,” said Nava. “There was a possibility that the law would have been violated if the ACLU hadn’t stepped in.”

Farnesi said the university’s attorney looked over the letter from the ACLU and found that her email was in compliance with procedures and that no statements in it were found to be unlawful.

“They are claiming that we can not ask people to not record the meeting and that is an infraction on someone’s civil rights,” Farnesi said.

Farnesi said that the university’s attorneys drafted and sent a letter to the ACLU, but have yet to hear back.

“We are assuming this issue is over,” said Farnesi. “It’s a threat of litigation, not an actual lawsuit.”

Farnesi said the issue was never that recording was going on. It was the device that was being used.

“Our issue is not that people cannot record the meeting — we record the meetings ourselves and make them public,” Farnesi said. “The issue is if you use your cell phone to record.”

In the Senator Expectations Policy, devices that allow for outside communication are prohibited during meetings because the policy states, they would be a violation of the Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act.

Farnesi said that the point of having an open meeting is so anyone can access the information being said, and when a senator uses his or her cellphone, it could be considered communication the public doesn’t have access to during the meeting — violating the Open Meetings Act.

Nava said he had used his cell phone at the Feb. 15 Senate meeting to record, but has since switched to a device that is strictly for recording.

“I like recording the meetings to keep them as a reference,” Nava said.

Farnesi plans to regulate the meetings as usual and hold senators to the same standards that have been used in the past.

“We will continue to enforce all our behavior policies at the meetings,” Farnesi said.

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