Corey Albrecht, president of Turning Point USA, started sending mass emails to the student body after being strongly encouraged by the Augustana Student Association (ASA) to stop putting flyers in student mailboxes.
However, a new ASA constitutional amendment that passed Nov. 21 has Albrecht resorting to flyers, once again.
The new amendment limits communication between ASA-sponsored organizations and the student body to emails gained from “sign-up sheets or card swipes at the organization’s meetings, events, table at an activities fair or via a student’s request to be put on an organization’s email list,” according to the amendment proposed by sophomore senator John Walker.
The amendment applies to organizations recognized by ASA, and failure to comply can result in a 15 percent reduction of the organization’s budget.
Organizations will also be required to include an”unsubscribe option” at the bottom of any email sent.
The amendment passed 21-8.
Why was the amendment proposed?
Walker proposed the amendment in response to “general concerns by students over receiving emails from groups they did not sign up for.”
“I wrote the amendment as a way to ensure student privacy,” Walker said. “The amendment is designed to help ensure students’ privacy while making sure it would not infringe upon a student’s free speech.”
According to Audrey Cope, ASA vice president, she worked with Walker to find a content neutral way to craft the amendment.
“This had been a rising problem in the past,” Cope said. “All [the amendment] is going to do is ask [student organizations] to be cognizant of who they are contacting with email.
There are so many other ways to communicate with students that are much more broad and much less private.”
Free speech ambiguity
Some senators, like juniors Cole Tessendorf and Jillian Weidner, said the amendment restricts free speech on campus.
“As a private institution, we do have the right to restrict first amendment rights, but just because we can doesn’t mean we should,” Tessendorf said.
He also said the wording of the amendment leaves a lot of “gray area” when it comes to emails from clubs.
“Where do you draw the line?” Tessendorf asked. “[This amendment] impacts a lot more than just your email inbox. We could have handled it much differently than amending our constitution.”
Dean of Students OKs amendment
During the Nov. 21 meeting, Dean of Students Mark Blackburn said that when students bypass university-regulated communication systems like Viking Central and Amail, they are violating the Student Code of Conduct.
“In my opinion, [the amendment] is not muffling any freedom of speech,” Blackburn said.
University directory information, including Buzz Book and student email addresses, is for internal university use and may not be shared or used for commercial purposes, according to the Student Code of Conduct.
“There are certain protocols in place for students to send out emails to the entire student body,” Blackburn said. “If those protocols are not used and you keep soliciting different ways to promote your organization, then that’s when I think the Code of Conduct comes in.”
Senator Weidner, however, interprets the Code of Conduct differently, which is why she voted against the amendment.
“Students have the right to utilize student emails and other information provided by Buzz Book within the Augustana community,” Weidner wrote in an email. “Violation would be if student emails were given to outside organizations (not affiliated with Augustana) without student consent.”
Unless the amendment is amended or reversed in the coming weeks, Albrecht of Turning Point USA will continue to advertise his organization’s events the best way he can.
“Posters no longer work,” Albrecht said. “ All we want to do is get the word out when we have events.”
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