George Mason University: Unconstitutional Policies and Suppression of Dissent

Category: Free Speech
Schools: George Mason University

GMU student and Air Force veteran Tariq Khan protested military recruiters on campus by silently standing near their table with a “Recruiters Lie” sign taped to his chest while passing out handbills. According to witnesses, a student assaulted Khan and took his sign within less than 30 minutes. Yet the police arrested Khan, not the other students involved in the ensuing fracas, allegedly because he had violated GMU Policy 1110. The ACLU of Virginia came to Khan’s legal aid, and FIRE discovered that GMU maintains several unconstitutional policies limiting freedom of expression. FIRE wrote GMU President Alan G. Merten, pointing out that Policy 1110 bans on-campus distribution of newspapers that are “inconsistent with the mission of the University” and subjects all newspaper distribution on campus to prior administrative review-a clear violation of the First Amendment right to dissent. GMU responded to FIRE with a brief letter, saying that it has “launched a review of all of its policies on the use of public space” on campus and that a “faculty led committee” will recommend changes; the criminal charges against Khan were dropped. However, GMU’s letter specified no deadline for the committee to make its policy changes, nor did it address FIRE’s concerns about the unconstitutionality of its current policies.

  • A new wave of PC on campus

    December 12, 2005

    ALAN TEMES, an assistant professor of health and physical education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was getting good reviews on the job until his politics became an issue. Temes, who opposes the war in Iraq, began posting updates of the body count of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians on a bulletin board near his office. Last April, department chair Elaine Blair e-mailed Temes advising him to stop posting the notices. Then, Temes claims in a lawsuit, she warned him that continued antiwar protests would hurt his chances of getting tenure. Later, he was denied tenure, despite apparently meeting the qualifications […]

    » Read More

  • Clash of campus freedom, civility

    December 11, 2005

    When Tariq Khan staged a one-man demonstration against military recruiters, he felt safe because he was on a college campus. Then he was arrested. “When the police officer started to handcuff me, I was pretty surprised,” Khan said last week. “Usually we tend to think of college campuses as sort of safe havens for this type of thing, for people who want to raise consciousness about controversial issues.” Most colleges and universities, whether public or private, pride themselves on adhering to principles of free speech and expression as protected by the First Amendment. But at many schools, the practical problem […]

    » Read More

  • FIRE Challenges Unconstitutional Policies at George Mason University

    November 17, 2005

    FAIRFAX, Va., November 17, 2005—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is challenging unconstitutional policies at George Mason University (GMU). Earlier this fall, such policies led to the arrest of a GMU student who was protesting military recruiters on its Northern Virginia campus. “GMU’s unconstitutional policies make it no surprise that a peaceful student protestor was arrested,” remarked FIRE President David French. “The distribution of posters, handbills, and newspapers was critical to our nation’s fight for independence. It is a shame that GMU, a public university named for one of America’s founders, restricts the right to do the very […]

    » Read More