The First Amendment Wins Again: Yuba Community College Reaches Settlement in Free Speech Lawsuit

By on January 28, 2009

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Center for Academic Freedom announced on Monday that an out-of-court settlement has been reached with Yuba Community College (YCC), successfully concluding the group’s lawsuit on behalf of student Ryan Dozier. As a result of the settlement, YCC has dismantled its unconstitutional free speech zone policy, which allowed students to engage in "free speech" only between noon and 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

ADF attorneys brought suit against the college on Dozier’s behalf after Dozier was threatened with arrest or expulsion by a campus police officer while engaging in faith-oriented expressive activity on campus in February 2008. Later, Dozier was informed via certified mail from YCC that he had been found guilty of "conducting an assembly without a permit" and that further violations of YCC policy would result in punishment and possible expulsion.

We congratulate ADF on the victory, and we’re pleased that YCC has decided to forgo wasting taxpayer funds by battling against the First Amendment in federal court. Perhaps YCC administrators heeded the negative example set by Georgia Tech University, which was forced to pay out over $200,000 in attorney’s fees after waging a futile defense of its obviously unconstitutional policies.

Indeed, YCC’s free speech zone policy was one of the worst we’ve seen since Valdosta State University (revoked last September). Amazingly enough, YCC’s free speech zone was even more restrictive than VSU’s—because while VSU allowed just two hours of expressive activity on campus per day, YCC allowed a mere two hours of expressive activity per week. Simply put, that’s ridiculous. For a public institution of higher education to restrict student expression on campus to such a Singaporean degree is just plain indefensible—and I guess that YCC’s decision to settle rather than stand up for its illiberal policy in court is proof of that.