For The Daily Caller, Robby Soave reports: Two students are suing the University of Hawaii for violating their First Amendment rights after administrator prevented them from distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution — demonstrating a frightening lack of knowledge about the very legal document they were attempting to censor.
“It’s not about your rights…”
— Ellen Kusano, director of Student Affairs
Students Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone, members of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at UH-Hilo, were prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution at a recruitment event in January. A week later, they were again informed by a censorship-minded administrator that their First Amendment-protected activities were in violation of school policy.
The students were told that they could only distribute literature from within UH-Hilo’s “free speech zone,” a small, muddy, frequently-flooded area on the edge of campus.
Administrators further clarified their level of respect for students’ free speech rights, making comments like, “This isn’t really the ’60s anymore,” and “people can’t really protest like that anymore,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The First Amendment has not been modified since the 1960s, however, and robustly protects the rights of students at public universities to hold non-disruptive protests, speak their mind and distribute literature. Read the rest of this entry »
Free Speech Smack-Down Victory: California College Student Teaches School $50,000 Lesson on ConstitutionPosted: February 25, 2014
“What are the rules? Why are the rules tied to my free speech?”
— Student Robert Van Tuinen
“… if you’re going to start an organization like that you have to go through the rigamarole.”
— Campus Police Officer
It’s impossible to watch this video without getting mad. It’s a priceless document, capturing the most offensive and absurd violation of free speech perhaps ever recorded on the campus of a public University. The bureaucratic run-around given to this student by a Campus Law Enforcement Official, and an unidentified University official, is spectacularly, breathtakingly stupid. It’s heartbreaking to listen to their justifications, false objections, and rationalizations. More common than you might think. Blatantly illegal. Is this America? Welcome to modern Academia. Watch the whole thing:
Do these public servants realize they’re exposing the University to a lawsuit? This footage could be preserved as a training video for University staff members. Explicitly demonstrating how to violate a student’s constitutional rights. They couldn’t have performed a more perfectly-worded constitutional rights violation if they had a script written for them by a KGB public relations expert. Example, telling the student that there’s a ‘designated place..”
“…in front of the student center, in that little cement area,” where free expression is allowed…”
— University official
Here’s the legal victory story from Fox News:
A California college student who was blocked last year from handing out copies of the Constitution gave his school a lesson in civics and the law, winning a $50,000 settlement and an agreement to revise its speech codes.
Robert Van Tuinen, 26, settled with Modesto Junior College just five months after his run-in with school officials on Sept. 17 – National Constitution Day. Van Tuinen said he’s more excited about getting the school to revise its speech codes, which previously confined the First Amendment to a small area students had to sign up to use.
Greg Lukianoff writes: College is where inquisitive minds go to be exposed to new ways of thinking. But on some campuses, the quest for knowledge is frustrated when administrators censor speech they would prefer be kept out of the marketplace of ideas.
To close out the year, we at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) want to highlight some of the worst colleges for free speech since March 2012 — the last time we published this list. (Our first list, from 2011, is here.)
Most of the schools we include in this year’s list are public colleges or universities bound by the First Amendment. But some of them are private colleges that, though not required by the Constitution to respect student and faculty free speech rights, nonetheless promise to do so. (As we said last year, if you’re looking for schools like Brigham Young or Liberty University to appear on this list, you’ll be disappointed. Students who attend those schools know what they’re getting themselves into.) One of the institutions listed isn’t even a college, but still deserves special mentioning for the profound effect it had on campus expression this year.
Of course, a “top 10” list cannot include all the colleges that violated free speech rights over the last nearly two years. Two notable colleges that are not on the list include Modesto Junior College (MJC), where, earlier this year, a student was ordered to stop handing out Constitutions on Constitution Day. It was a huge case and would have made the list if not for a recent decision by the college to dramatically improve its policies. MJC dropped some of the worst features of its original policy and have pledged to adopt a permanent policy change that respects the First Amendment. FIRE is optimistic, but will monitor the situation closely, so stay tuned.
The other college is the University of Kansas (KU), which just announced a highly restrictive social media policy for all staff and professors in the wake of a controversial tweet by a journalism professor. We just wrote to the school and want to give KU the chance to respond and/or reform the policy.
For those interested in learning more about the the fight for student rights, check out my book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. In the book, I highlight even more examples of egregious free speech violations from my 12-year fight for basic liberties at colleges across the country.
The State University of New York College at Oswego
The State University of New York at Oswego (SUNY Oswego) earns its rightful place on this list for nonsensically suspending a student who asked rival hockey coaches for their thoughts about his school’s coach in order to complete a class assignment. Because he simply informed the coaches through email that they did not have to say only positive things about their SUNY Oswego counterpart, student Alex Myers was alleged to “defame, harass, intimidate, or threaten another individual or group.” As a result of the charges, Myers was placed on interim suspension and forced to vacate his campus residence. After intense public pressure from FIRE and media outlets like Gawker, the university eventually dropped Myers’ suspension and allowed him to return to campus—but only after the school sent a destructive message to student journalists about asking tough questions.
In George Orwell’s <em>1984</em>, one of the methods that the government of Oceania used to control its population was constant surveillance. Citizens were afraid to speak their minds because they never knew when they were being monitored by “Big Brother.” If you’re a member of the Harvard University community, you might have that same uneasy feeling after it was revealed earlier this year that the administration violated school policy in covertly accessing 16 residential deans’ email accounts. The search was undertaken to determine the source of a leak to the media about a high-profile cheating scandal on campus. The deans, who also serve as lecturers within the school, weren’t notified that their email accounts were accessed until months after it occurred. As Harvard’s student newspaper The Crimson reports, the effect of the covert search has been a chilling effect on faculty speech. Though an official university investigation into the affair concluded that the search was conducted in “good faith,” the administrator responsible for ordering the search has resigned. The question remains: how safe are Harvard students and faculty from future snooping efforts? (Also: Check out other censorship, free speech, and rights issues at Harvard over the last decade)
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama earns its place on this year’s list through its bureaucratic assault on common sense and the Constitution. In April 2013, the Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice (AASRJ) student group was blocked from mounting a peaceful counter-demonstration to a Bama Students for Life “Genocide Awareness Project” display that featured graphic abortion-related images. When AASRJ students tried to hand out their materials near the display, they were told by a police officer that without a grounds use permit, they could face arrest. Why not get the permit? For one, Alabama’s grounds use policy requires applicants to apply for a permit 10 working days in advance. This put groups like AASRJ—which had less than 24 hours to plan its counter-demonstration—out of luck. But that’s almost beside the point: It’s absurd that students at any public university should ever have to request permission from their colleges to exercise basic free speech rights, like handing out literature in the campus’ public spaces. Although Alabama slightly revised its policy in response to pressure from FIRE, concerns still remain. Administrators still enjoy far too much discretion in approving permit requests, and the fact remains that spontaneous events—a common feature of college life—are still unduly restricted Read the rest of this entry »