Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Pledge is back--Fireworks included!

The Orange Coast College student government voted Monday to put the Pledge of Allegiance back on its biweekly agendas, but added that the board of trustees could alter the practice after hearing feedback from students.

At an intense two-and-a-half-hour meeting in the faculty lounge, the student trustees listened to — and often expressed — passionate opinions both for and against making the pledge an official item. In the end, by a 3-2 vote, the board opted to reinstate the pledge as an "opportunity" for any attendees who wish to recite it and promised to hold a forum or take an opinion poll in the near future to determine students' feelings on the matter.

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"In my view, this is a fair compromise," said student body president Lynne Riddle, who suggested the compromise that the trustees accepted but is not a voting member of the board. "I feel strongly still that the board made no mistake. However, we have heard additional voices from students and the community."

The decision, made before a packed audience that included students, teachers and administrators, came at the end of a heated discussion that lasted a full two hours longer than its allotted time on the agenda. Before the board finally ruled, every trustee had made at least one motion, with the first losing 4-0 and the other three dying before going to a vote.

Brent Bettes, the chair of the meeting who cast the tie-breaking vote, said he approved the decision because it provided the possibility "that the students could decide for themselves."

Throughout the meeting, some board members vented their frustration at the media attention devoted to the pledge controversy. Trustee Jason Ball, in particular, stressed that his board had not "banned" the salute, as some news reports had claimed. Also, he said, the trustees' decision had been based only partially on an objection to the words "under God," and more on the relevance of the pledge to other business at the meetings.

Nonetheless, the Monday meeting involved more than its share of fireworks, as the speakers touched on the sacrifices of American soldiers for the flag, the national reputation of OCC and even whether European settlers committed genocide on the Native Americans.

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