Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Peace activist left table–less

Hannah Cohen, Collegian Staff
Activist Dade Singapuri has been tabling at the Campus Center concourse at the University of Massachusetts since 1996. From then until today hundreds, even thousands of students must have walked by her table where she advocates for peace, nuclear disarmament and various positions falling under the broad label of social justice.

Many students have discussed various issues with Dade, and dozens have sat and helped Dade to table for her issues. She welcomes opposing views, because her table encourages people to come and debate among themselves. Dade feels that if she can inform students about the issues facing humanity today, she will feel she is contributing to a better world. Now, however, it seems Auxiliary Services wants to change this.

When Dade arrived to table on Nov. 23, she found there were cafe tables where her tabling space would have been, so she set up her table in the space nearby without cafe tables. Dade reports that she was told by Meredith Schmidt, Campus Center director that she could table. However, on Dec. 1 she was told she could no longer table by the Tickets Unlimited staff, who control tabling at the Campus Center.

Tickets Unlimited told Dade that if she was with an RSO, she could table, so she attempted to table under the banner of the Cannabis Reform Coalition. According to Dade, Tickets Unlimited staff came once more and told Dade that she “was out” and could no longer be part of the Cannabis Reform Coalition.

Dade, at the time of this writing, now has to find an RSO with which to officially partner or pay a tabling fee of $70 a day, and it is unclear what would constitute an official affiliation with an RSO sufficient to allow Dade to table.

She also informed the Collegian the administration plans to inform the various vendors who usually operate in the Campus Center they can no longer use space in the concourse.

The Collegian proceeded to contact Meredith Schmidt about the matter, and was told that Dade and the vendors are being asked to leave as part of the Campus Center’s new enforcement of a rule that has always existed: that everyone tabling must be affiliated with a RSO. The Campus Center has begun enforcing this policy, the Collegian was told, in order to free up more space for the student organizations. There are, according to Schmidt, over 200 RSOs active at this time and the requirement that only student organizations table is the entire point of having the concourse affiliated with the University.

According to the Secretary of the Registry Tyler Langlaix speaking for the SGA, the SGA is also somewhat in favor of the new enforcement. They’ve received a lot of feedback on the matter already, but they believe that enforcing the rules requiring RSO affiliation to table will help maintain the student-defined culture in the Concourse.

No student organization currently covers precisely the set of subjects as Dade Singapuri’s table does. Dade says that she informs students about, “war, the environment, the injustice of our judicial system, nuclear weapons, nuclear power,” among other things. She has also referred to her table as “the table of peace and social justice, the anti-war table.”

One of Dade’s erstwhile assistants, UMass student Alex Hage, objected to the prospect of her table being taken away and thought it had something to do with the new French Meadow cafe and cafe tables in the Concourse.

“I think the replacement of student-organization tabling with cafe tables underrepresents the students and takes away rights from campus organizations. Also, the cafe tables do not build community, while campus organizations build community,” he said, “The new cafe tables are a cheap way for the university to take away rights from the students.”

The French Meadows cafe stand has been open since last semester, primarily supplying coffee and tea in replacement of the older, smaller Starbucks stand, and the new stand does take up space once used by student organizations for tabling. Alex maintains that, “Campus organizations build community.”

Further developments will tell whether Dade is able to continue tabling, or whether this fixture of the Campus Center Concourse for the last fourteen years will have to find another public square in the face of encroaching privatization.

Eli Gottlieb can be reached at [email protected].

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    Ed CuttingDec 9, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    This – as applied to UMass students – is unConstitutional. It is content-based censorship, students only have the right of free speech if a RSO decides to grant it to them?

    That some people have a right of free speech and that others have to pay $70/day for it?

    Are we serious? Is everyone as ignorant of the First Amendment as it appears they are? (Hint to SGA — if the admin can violate the rights of individual students (who have Constitutional rights), they can violate the rights of student groups (that don’t) with impunity…)