FIRE Keeps Pressure on Santa Rosa Junior College Regarding Overbroad Ban on ‘Unofficial’ Name Usage

By on August 6, 2009

Since Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) President Robert Agrella apparently doesn’t understand what "overbroad" means, FIRE wrote his boss yesterday to warn him about the unconstitutionally overbroad ban on the "unofficial" use of the college’s name or initials.

In our latest letter, we warned California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott that the college’s overbroad ban on even the initials "SRJC" in private e-mail addresses and domain names is unconstitutional, leaving the college open to liability for chilling core political speech about the college or for actively trying to get people to shut down their existing e-mail addresses and websites. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people have been warned by Agrella and his administration over the years that such uses of the college’s name are "illegal," despite the fact that it is quite likely that most such persons have used the name in perfectly lawful ways (that is, not using the name in order to sell anything or to suggest endorsement by the college). We also noted that we have raised concerns about the constitutionality of the relevant section of the California Education Code itself.

We wrote:

FIRE received an inadequate response from President Agrella on July 16 … He stated, in an even more unconstitutionally overbroad way, that SRJC was trying "to stop unofficial use of the college’s name." His response offered no retraction of the ban and no promise to stop telling individuals that their perfectly lawful actions are illegal.

As we stated to President Agrella, please know that while you are not responsible for the existence of the California Education Code, you and other agents of the California Community Colleges may not enforce it unconstitutionally. While FIRE does not directly engage in litigation, please be aware that any public university policy prohibiting constitutionally protected expression is an unlawful deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for which university administrators may be sued in their individual capacities.

We hope that Chancellor Scott will understand the stakes here and will urge President Agrella to clarify the First Amendment rights of members of the SRJC community by announcing that private, noncommercial use of SRJC’s name both is and must be permitted among SRJC students and faculty members.

Schools: Santa Rosa Junior College Cases: Santa Rosa Junior College: Overbroad Ban on “Unofficial” Use of College’s Initials