February 8 2017
Jillian Kay Melchior
Orange Coast College has forbidden students from making in-classroom recordings without permission after a video went viral last semester showing one instructor describing Donald Trump as a “white supremacist” and his election as “an act of terrorism.”
Signs posted on campus warned students that unauthorized recordings were prohibited under the Student Code of Conduct and California Education Code. California law also prohibits the recording of private conversation without the consent of all interlocutors.
When the video of Professor Olga Perez-Stable Cox’s political comments surfaced in December, the professor’s union called it “an illegal recording,” also saying the student behind it “may be facing legal action.” A lawyer for the College Republicans said the student also feared suspension or expulsion.
The president of the professor’s union said in December that such recordings not only violated college policy but also suppressed professors’ free speech, denouncing the videos as “Gestapo tactics.”
The College Republicans, who had published the viral video, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning. But a top student official for the group told the Los Angeles Times that the policy was “a slap on the face” and risked “suppressing students from reporting faculty wrongdoing.”
As the video circulated online and was featured on Fox News’ hugely popular O’Reilly Factor, several students came forward, saying the professor was overtly hostile to students with conservative political views. “I felt censored and bullied if I did not agree with her opinions,” one student wrote on RateMyTeacher.com.
The Orange Coast College Republicans filed a formal complaint, claiming Cox had harassed and singled out students based on their political affiliation. In December, the college began an investigation into those claims, though it has not yet released the outcome. A spokesman for the college could not immediately be reached for comment.
In response to the viral video, Cox told several media outlets she had received an onslaught of emails and voicemails, some of them threatening and frightening. And last semester, the campus saw protests both in support of Cox and in opposition to her comments.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.