Los Angeles Times, January 18, 1973
Lack of Policy Bars Jane Fonda Talk at Unihi
By Doug Smith
Times Staff Writer
WEST LOS ANGELES – Jane Fonda may someday speak to the students of University High School on the details of her trip to Hanoi – but not this week.
Instead, the school administration will meet tonight with the Community Advisory Council to work out a policy for bringing to campus controversial speakers on various subjects.
That was the decision made by University principal John Welch when members of the student leadership class approached him by surprise last week seeking approval of a voluntary assembly at which Miss Fonda would have spoken on Wednesday.
The arrangements for Miss Fonda’s appearance were already complete. Through Michael Letwin, a publisher of the student newspaper called the Red Tide, the actress and antiwar activist proposed several days she could come to the campus. The leadership class, consisting of the members of student council, voted to sponsor an assembly that students could attend voluntarily.
Welch’s approval was the last requirement for having the assembly. But he refused.
“My view is that controversial speakers are good and there is room for them in Board of Education policy, but I need time to set up the proper guidelines so I won’t get caught in the crossfire,” Welch told The Times.
“What it boils down to is that we don’t have a policy on controversial speakers, but we will have one after getting some feedback from parents at the Community Advisory Council. This is the kind of thing I think we ought to take to the advisory council. That’s one of the reasons for decentralization of the schools,” said Welch.
However, because there was some confusion about Welch’s initial reasons for refusing the assembly, the leadership class wrote and distributed a petition advocating the assembly. In one day they collected 1,074 signatures and student body president Michael Galizio handed them to Welch.
In addition, they began a campaign to gather support for the PTA, parents, community groups and the advisory council.
“We had a meeting of the faculty-student-administration advisory committee,” said Galizio. “The faculty and administration were entirely in favor of having controversial speakers on campus. We are happy about that.
“There is a lot of student feeling here that we should be able to have Jane Fonda speak this week,” said Galizio, “but, if not, we feel we’ve made a big steps toward getting controversial speakers on campus and we’ve shown that if we’re interested in something we’re going to carry it out.”
The Los Angeles School District has a set of guidelines for students bringing outside speakers onto high school campuses. They are summarized in the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities. The main requirements are that speakers should be approved in advance, their subject matter relate to the school’s educational program, efforts should be made to present all sides of controversial issues and attendance should be voluntary.
Within these guidelines Welch believes there is room for each school community to establish its own policy and structure for obtaining speakers. To do this he will bring the question before the Community Advisory Council which meets at 7:30 tonight in the Felicia Mahood Recreation Center, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd.
“First we will find out if the council agrees that there should be controversial issues presented on campus and then work out a system for smoothing the way for this to take place.
“I hope,” added Welch, “that Miss Fonda will call me so we can set up a future time when she can come to speak.”
In the meantime Miss Fonda will have to stay away and Letwin, the student who arranged her visit, isn’t happy.