LOS ANGELES, May 6, 2015—In response to a First Amendment lawsuit filed by student and animal rights activist Nicolas Tomas, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona has promised not to enforce the university policies at issue while the case is being litigated. The lawsuit, which was filed in March as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, targeted Cal Poly Pomona speech codes that restrict where, when, and how students can exercise their free speech rights.
“Cal Poly Pomona required students to wear a free speech badge in a free speech zone during free speech days to exercise their free speech rights,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “We are happy to see the administration suspend the litany of limitations placed on students wishing to express themselves on campus and hopeful that the university will adopt fully First Amendment compliant policies soon.”
The suspension of these policies comes after productive discussions between Tomas’s lawyers—attorneys Robert Corn-Revere, Ronald London, and Lisa Zycherman of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine —and the university’s counsel. Settlement talks are planned to continue.
Tomas sued Cal Poly Pomona in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on March 31, after a campus police officer stopped him from handing out animal rights flyers on a campus sidewalk. The officer directed Tomas to the Office of Student Life to obtain a “permit,” a badge that he would have to wear while passing out any written material. Furthermore, distribution would be confined to Cal Poly Pomona’s tiny “free speech zone”—a patch of turf that makes up less than 0.01 percent of campus.
“I’m glad to see this step in the right direction towards making the much-needed changes to the policies that will allow us, students, our right to speak freely and be a voice for what we are passionate about—and in turn optimize our educational experience at Cal Poly Pomona,” said Tomas.
Tomas’s lawsuit is the ninth First Amendment lawsuit filed as part of FIRE’s national Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, and the third against a California college. Previous lawsuits against Modesto Junior College and Citrus College ended in monetary settlements and reform of the colleges’ unconstitutional speech codes.
In March 2015, FIRE sent a mailing to public California colleges and universities that maintain clearly unconstitutional speech codes, putting them on notice to revise their policies or run the risk of being sued. FIRE stands ready to work cooperatively with any institution that wants to revise its policies voluntarily and avoid the need for litigation.
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Katie Barrows, Communications Coordinator, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org