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UCLA Says It's a Matter of Policy, Not Politics : Shanties Removed; Group Charges Bias

April 17, 1986|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

Leaders of a student political group called Nemesis claim that the UCLA administration has violated their First Amendment rights by tearing down cardboard shanties that members erected on campus without official permission to publicize their anti-apartheid, anti-dictatorship views.

A few feet away, another shanty sponsored by a different anti-apartheid group was allowed to remain at the foot of the Bruin Steps because it had been approved by the university.

'Double Standard' Seen

Nemesis director Bob Zirgulis, a 33-year-old UCLA graduate, accused the university administration of practicing a "double standard" by allowing the UC Out-of-South-Africa Coalition to retain its shanty while those put up by Nemesis were torn down.

Zirgulis said that the coalition is a "pro-Marxist" group that is receiving favorable treatment from UCLA.

UCLA officials emphatically denied that the university favors the coalition's cause over the views espoused by Nemesis, and they said the shanties were torn down because Nemesis did not follow the approval process established by the university.

Berky Nelson, director of the UCLA Center for Student Programming, said, "We believe very much in free speech, but it must be done through the proper mechanisms."

The university evaluates each application in terms of student safety and liability factors, he said. "Also, there is a need to maintain some semblance of order."

Zirgulis said that Nemesis has been mistakenly labeled a right-wing group. He said its 22 members at UCLA and 345 statewide oppose dictatorships whether they be right-wing or left-wing.

Plastered With Signs

The short-lived Nemesis shanties were plastered with signs referring to political conflicts throughout the world. "Support Freedom Fighters" bumper stickers featured the international circle-and-slash signs banning the hammer-and-sickle emblem on one side and the swastika on the other, showing Nemesis' anti-communist and anti-Nazi sentiments, Zirgulis said.

Nemesis' shanties had been up only about an hour on Tuesday morning when administration officials showed up and asked Zirgulis and a handful of supporters to remove the cardboard structures and signs.

When Zirgulis refused, officials called campus maintenance workers who quickly loaded the materials on a truck and drove off, leaving a few Nemesis members shaking their fists and chanting "Free speech, free speech!"

Zirgulis said Nemesis wrote UCLA officials a letter on Monday asking permission to install the shanties Tuesday, but Nelson said Nemesis did not make the proper application.

Zirgulis contended that the UC Out-of-South-Africa Coalition is a "front" for pro-Marxist activists, but coalition spokesman Marc Pruyn said the group encompasses students ranging from "the moderate right to the far left."

Pruyn, a 22-year-old senior in political science, scoffed at the idea that the university is endorsing the coalition's shanty, where about 800 students have signed petitions protesting South Africa's apartheid policy and asking the University of California to divest itself of holdings in companies that do business with South Africa.

Pruyn said that the university tore down a shanty the coalition had erected few weeks ago, after which students entered into talks with the administration and reached an agreement allowing the coalition's shanty to stay on campus for about six weeks.

Zirgulis said that this is the second time recently that the university has torn down Nemesis' shanties, but he said the group plans to persist in its efforts to get its views before the public.

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