MJC halt of Constitution handout lands on YouTube

September 19, 2013

by Nan Austin in The Modesto Bee

Modesto Junior College security stopped a student from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution in front of the east campus student center Tuesday, which was Constitution Day.

Robert Van Tuinen, 25, captured his furious but civil confrontation with the officer and campus administration on video and posted it Thursday on YouTube.

National attention garnered by the video prompted the Yosemite Community College District to issue a statement saying it was looking into the matter.

District policy allows students to distribute materials in the free-speech areas “as long as they don’t disrupt the orderly operation of the college,” Public Affairs Director Nick Stavrianoudakis said by email.

“In the case of the YouTube video, it did not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operation of the college,” the statement says. It ends with, “The administration of the YCCD supports the peaceful distribution of the Constitution and other materials on campus, which is why our colleges support Constitution Day with activities each year.”

In the video, Van Tuinen argues that his right to free speech is being violated. The officer says Van Tuinen is too upset, shaking and being argumentative.

Van Tuinen next argues with an administrator in the Student Development and Campus Life office, where he is told he may not pass out any papers, even in the free speech area, without prior authorization and is told he will need to make an appointment with the campus vice president of student services to get that permission.

Reached by phone, Van Tuinen said he was stopped after about 10 minutes of handing out the free copies of the Constitution and estimated he gave out about 50. He said he decided to hand out the papers as an activity suggested by a nonpartisan group, Young Americans for Liberty.

He said he did not try to get an appointment to hand out the copies, and no one from the college has contacted him. After the incident, Van Tuinen said he contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which is listed as having posted the video.

Schools: Modesto Junior College Cases: Modesto Junior College: Students Barred from Distributing Constitutions on Constitution Day