by Timothy Dionisopoulos on Campus Reform.
Officials at a public university in California were caught on video on Tuesday preventing a student from handing out Constitutions in a public area.
According to video recorded by a student, campus security approached students who were handing out small pocket Constitutions to inform them that they had to have permission to distribute such materials on Modesto Junior College (MJC) grounds.
The video was originally uploaded by MJC student Robert Van Tuinen and depicts campus security informing him of rules for engaging in such political activity.
The officer then accompanied Van Tuinen into a building and informed him that students must be part of an official student group and follow an official process to solicit on campus.
Van Tuinen identified himself as the leader of a newly formed chapter of the organization Young Americans for liberty, a libertarian-oriented organization centered on colleges around the country.
“Why is there a process for my free speech?” said Van Tuinen.
“Because you are a student here at the college,” replied the officer.
“But it’s a public school on a public ground and the First Amendment says I have a right to free speech and free assembly,” argued Van Tuinen.
At this point the officer claimed Van Tuinen was acting in a hostile manner.
“The way that you are acting right now towards me shows me that you obviously came here to already cause a problem on campus you’re shaking, you’re upset, your facial features tell me otherwise, you’re trying to get me into an argument,” he said. “I’m not here to have an argument.”
“I’m simply trying to get the facts from you sir and you are proving my point”, replied Van Tuinen.
The officer referred Van Tuinen to another administrator who told him there is a “time, place, and manner” protocol and “the free speech area is over there in front of the student area.”
“Anybody that’s going to be on campus [soliciting] they would need to come through my office and fill out an application and I would need to have a photo of your ID you can read these guidelines and procedures,” she added.
The administrator in the student life office referred Van Tuinen to the vice president of student life to discuss the matter further.
Linda Hoile, a spokeswoman for the college, told Campus Reform in a phone interview on Wednesday she was not aware of the incident and had not seen the video in question but later in the day the school issued a statement to Campus Reform saying it would look into the matter.
“People can distribute material in the areas generally available to students and the community as long as they don’t ‘disrupt the orderly operation of the college,’” it read. “In the case of the YouTube video, it does not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operation of the college. Therefore, we are looking into the matter.
“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,” it added.