CCAC allows handouts without prior review

October 2, 2009

Community College of Allegheny County will no longer require prior review of student handouts after complaints by a women who sought last spring to form a group advocating the right to carry concealed firearms on campus.

The student, Christine "Christa" Brashier, attempted to organize a campus chapter of a national group, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

In June, she said a CCAC employee told her the organizing amounted to "soliciting," ordered her to destroy fliers she created and warned she risked sanctions if she pursued the matter without the school’s OK.

Ms. Brashier said the order violated her free speech rights.

The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania took up her cause.

CCAC officials, including President Alex Johnson, have said it was never the school’s intent to deny her the right to organize such a group. They said fliers left on tables throughout the campus cafeteria and elsewhere violated rules by using CCAC’s name in a way that suggested a link between it and her as-yet unrecognized group.

Initially, the college defended the prior-review policy, but in recent days senior administrators amended their position on the rule.

"It was set up to protect students from harmful solicitation," CCAC spokesman David Hoovler said. "But looking at it in light of this situation, we realized that there was some ambiguity there and it was probably best to do away with that."

According to CCAC, the language struck from the college’s facilities management policies is as follows: "Solicitation: The distribution or display of, and the personal contact with individuals or groups related to non-sponsored college material or events, without prior written approval of the college are prohibited. These actions are limited to public property; however, public property in this context does not include college property."

Both the ACLU and FIRE praised the decision. Both had said the rule was unconstitutional and that using the college’s name on the handouts did not imply endorsement.

"We’re very pleased that they have come around and corrected the problem," said Witold Walczak, the state ACLU’s legal director.

"We are glad that CCAC has finally given its students the right to encourage one another to band together for causes they believe in," said Adam Kissel, director of FIRE’s individual rights defense program. "This is another example of how just one college student standing up for her rights can help bring liberty to her entire campus."

Ms. Brashier, 24, a second-year education student from Squirrel Hill, declined comment yesterday on the decision, but she confirmed that her efforts to establish the group are continuing.

Schools: Community College of Allegheny County Cases: Community College of Allegheny County: Student Denied Right to Start Advocacy Organization