Community College of Allegheny County defends policy to free-speech group

June 2, 2009

The Community College of Allegheny County said Monday it objects to a student’s failure to seek permission to create a pro-gun campus group, not to the mission of such an organization.

In a letter to a First Amendment group that took up the student’s cause, CCAC Solicitor Mike Adams said Christine Brashier failed to get permission to post fliers seeking supporters for a chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. The national organization opposes university and college policies that prohibit handguns on campuses, even by non-law enforcement officials licensed to carry concealed weapons.

In addition, Adams’ letter said, the fliers incorrectly implied the group was an established, CCAC-approved group.

“CCAC has not placed and will not place any unlawful restrictions on Ms. Brashier’s freedom of association,” Adams wrote. “Ms. Brashier will simply be required to follow the appropriate CCAC policy and procedures like other students.”

College spokesman David Hoovler said fliers posted on campus must be approved by the Office of Student Life, so that bulletin boards are not papered over with “scams and other things that could be harmful to students.” Nor can such fliers imply an affiliation with the school if none exists, he said.

Even though the mission of the concealed weapons group runs counter to that of the college’s no-weapons policy, Hoovler said the school would not limit a student’s ability to form such a group.

Brashier, 24, of Squirrel Hill did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Robert L. Shibley, vice president for the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which publicized her cause, said the college is claiming an overly broad power to review every piece of literature that appears on campus.

“No public college has the right to require prior approval of noncommercial handbills,” Shibley said. “Using CCAC’s reasoning, Thomas Paine should have sought the British government’s permission to distribute his pamphlet ‘Common Sense.’ ”

Shibley said his group would continue to fight what he called CCAC’s censorship. He said a lawsuit is not out of the question.

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