Petitioners on Campus Cause Frustration

Eagle+News+photo+provided+by+Julia+Bonavita.+

Eagle News photo provided by Julia Bonavita.

Nick Asselin, Staff Writer

A student rushes off the bus. She makes her way down the sidewalk full of other students and thinks that she’ll get to class on time. And then she’s stopped by a petitioner.

Over the past month droves of petitioners have made their way to Florida Gulf Coast University in hopes of garnering signatures for their causes. Students at FGCU have grown frustrated with the methods they are using- whether it’s blocking students’ paths, cajoling, or telling students it is “OK” to sign for a fourth time, they are doing all they can to get signatures.

“They got in front of me, put the thing in front of my face, and said, ‘Please sign this for the Natives.’” FGCU senior Will Bobbitt said.

According to Bobbitt, the petitioners had no idea what they were trying to accomplish when he asked what the petition was about.

“They didn’t seem to have any idea what their goal was,” Bobbitt said. “I didn’t want to waste my time.”

Bobbitt said that most students he saw signing the petitions did not seem to care what it was they were signing. A common theme expressed by students is that they feel they are not being properly informed about what the petition is for.

FGCU Junior Alex McBride, who signed the petition, said she was told it was for the Native Americans and was told little else.

“I should’ve asked for more information,” McBride said. “It would be nice if they are going to be as forceful as they are, that they give you a little more information about it.”

McBride believes that the petition is for a good cause, but that the methods the petitioners are using give it a bad look.

“Some of them are for really good causes,” McBride said. “If you have the time, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to stop and sign one. Although, maybe they could be a little more polite about it sometimes.”

People forcing petitions in her face is nothing new for McBride. As a former Florida Southwestern State College student, she says that she’s dealt with this same issue. Typically to avoid the petitioners requests she would inform them that she is busy or late to class and most of the time they would leave her alone.

FGCU Freshman Victoria Stone was told the petition was about something to do with casino taxation. She’s resorted to just signing the papers to get the petitioners to leave her alone.

“I’ve signed like four of the same petitions,” Stone said. “I can’t even turn a corner without having to sign something and I’m not really sure what I’m signing for.”

According to FGCU Spokeswoman Pamela McCabe, the petitioners are protected under FGCU’s public expression and assembly regulation. They are not required, but are still asked, to fill out a business application form for Campus Reservations stating their actions and that they agree to FGCU’s posting and solicitation policies.

Stone says that she would have no issue with them if they were not so pushy about it. Although, if the petitioners bother enough students, Stone believes that the university should do something about it.

According to McCabe, any public expression activities can be suspended, terminated, or removed by the Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management. They must consult with the University Police to determine if the activity is disrupting the University’s normal operations, causing harm to property, or infringing on the safety or rights of others.

Upon reaching out to the petitioners for an interview, they stated that due to their contractual obligations they were unable to comment.

McBride is hoping that the petitions will end soon, or that the petitioners will at least be less forceful about it.

“It can be very jarring when they approach you, shove a clipboard in your face, and say, ‘Hey, sign this!’” McBride said. “They don’t really give you the option. They just say I need to sign it and I’m like ‘Oh I do?’”