California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly): Use of Disruption Claim to Suppress Free Speech

Category: Free Speech
Schools: California Polytechnic State University

In a major victory for free speech on campus, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has abandoned its attempt to punish a student for posting a flier on a public bulletin board. The flier merely announced a campus speech, but some students at the campus Multicultural Center found the flier "offensive." Cal Poly has agreed to expunge student Steve Hinkle’s disciplinary record relating to the incident, to cease interfering with his right to post fliers, and to pay significant attorney’s fees. The settlement of the lawsuit ends a victorious year-long campaign organized by FIRE and the Center for Individual Rights to restore fundamental rights and liberties to this public university.

  • When Speech Becomes a Crime

    June 28, 2006

    By Cinnamon Stillwell at San Francisco Chronicle Roman Catholic Robert Smith is fired from an appointment on the Washington Metro transit authority board by Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich for the crime of saying that he doesn’t approve of homosexuality. Journalist and author Oriana Fallaci cannot visit her native country of Italy for fear of being thrown in prison because of a lawsuit brought against her by the Italian Muslim Union for the crime of “defaming Islam.” British neo-Nazi David Irving is sentenced to three years in prison in Austria for a 1989 speech in which he committed the crime of […]

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  • The AHA’s Double Standard on Academic Freedom

    March 1, 2006

    by David Beito, Ralph Luker, and Robert “K. C.” Johnson Perspectives (American Historical Association) Has the AHA turned its back on academic freedom? In January, members present at its business meeting rejected a resolution to condemn attacks on academic freedom, whether from the right or from the left. Instead, they passed a weaker resolution that selectively condemned only threats coming from the right.We weighed into this controversy as part of a three person “left/right” coalition for academic freedom. Our chances were slim and we knew it. Only in December did we learn that the AHA business meeting would consider a […]

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  • Liberal Bias against Campus Conservatives Confronted

    October 22, 2004

    By John T. Plecnik at Front Page Magazine The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy hosted its annual policy conference at North Carolina State University last Saturday on October 16, 2004. The topic: “Freedom and the American Campus.” All-star panels articulated the reality of liberal bias on college campuses, and debated possible solutions. Notables included David Horowitz of, former U.S. House Historian Dr. Christina Jeffrey, and David French of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). During the conference, it was reported that a memo was circulating among the faculty and administration of N.C. State warning […]

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  • No Myth: Conservatives in Academia Suffer Discrimination

    October 15, 2004

    In a recent Sun column, (“Reclaim Your Victimhood,” Sept. 24), Danny Pearlstein, skeptical of the notion that conservatives in academia suffer discrimination, challenged conservatives “to send me concrete instances” of such. As the French would say, “chiche!” — dare accepted. Pearlstein’s challenge was, at least from his perspective, ill-timed. For within 48 hours came a glaring example of anti-conservative discrimination at Cornell, courtesy of the Student Assembly(SA): The SA’s blatantly political attempt to defund The Cornell American, one of the very few conservative student groups on campus. The attempted defunding was done in reliance on a newly-adopted, ex post facto […]

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  • The Good and The Bad (Plus Some Ugly)

    October 11, 2004

    Today’s college campus is a study in contrasts. Professors and administrators cling to their grotesque orthodoxies, but students seem to be getting saner by the year. What follows are five of the most outrageous campus incidents of the last academic year, then five of the most heartening acts of courage. The conservative-speaker double standard is almost an academic institution. At Bucknell University, administrators refused a student group’s request to invite Republican congressman and Senate hopeful Pat Toomey to give a speech, arguing that his appearance would violate a school policy against electioneering on campus. Meanwhile, Bucknell paid presidential candidate Ralph […]

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  • Cal Poly Settles Suit by Student

    May 6, 2004

    A Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student who sued the school for allegedly violating his 1st Amendment rights reached a settlement with the university this week. The school promised to expunge Steve Hinkle’s disciplinary record and to pay $40,000 in legal fees. Hinkle, a 23-year-old industrial technology major, was reprimanded in November 2002 after several students complained that fliers he had posted in the school’s multicultural center were offensive.Hinkle, president of the Cal Poly College Republican Club, was advertising a speech by Mason Weaver, the author of “It’s OK to Leave the Plantation.”Weaver argues that reliance on government aid enslaves […]

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  • Campus censors in retreat

    February 16, 2004

    By John Leo at

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  • Academia’s shame

    November 2, 2003

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  • Cal Poly Student Found Guilty of Disrupting Campus Events

    October 22, 2003

    By Marie Hamer at The College Redeemer Think how hard you work during the school year. All the time and effort you put into classes and extra-curricular activities. Think about how much time you spend on campus. You develop a liking and respect for the institution you have put so much time in at. Imagine yourself putting in all the long hours, doing all the work you do and now being sued by your university, simply for hosting a speaker to campusin your attempt to educate and inspire your fellow students. That is exactly what happened to California Polytechnic student, Steve […]

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  • Free Speech: For Liberals Only

    October 6, 2003

    By Gary W. Aldrich and Ashley N. Varner at A Michigan teenager has won the right in court to wear to his high school an extremely offensive message on his clothing. The reason this hateful message is allowed in school? It only offends those who actually respect our president and support the country during a time of war. The 16 year-old was ordered by his assistant principal to take off the shirt, bearing the label “International Terrorist” under a picture of President Bush. The student wore the shirt to school in February on the day he was to give […]

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  • California university sued for punishing student posting flier

    September 25, 2003

    By Robert Jablon at The San Francisco Chronicle A student sued the president and other officers of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in federal court Thursday, claiming his free-speech rights were violated when he was punished for trying to post a flier promoting a conservative author. The suit was filed with support from several nonprofit groups who have backed similar legal actions challenging speech codes at campuses around the nation. Last November, Steve Hinkle went to the campus multicultural center to post a flier advertising a speech by Mason Weaver, a black conservative who argues that reliance on government […]

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  • Cal Poly student’s lawsuit says he was punished for trying to post flier

    September 24, 2003

    By Mary Beth Marklein at USA Today A California Polytechnic State University senior plans to file a lawsuit against top campus officials today, arguing that they unfairly punished him after he tried to post a flier promoting an upcoming speech by an author whose ideas a group of black students found offensive. The lawsuit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, reflects a growing frustration among some students over the rise of campus policies governing speech or conduct. In recent months, students have filed lawsuits in Texas, California and Pennsylvania, and more are expected. But lawyers for the Cal […]

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  • Speech Codes: Alive and Well at Colleges…

    August 1, 2003

    By Greg Lukianoff and Harvey Silverglate at The Chronicle of Higher Education Five years ago, a higher-education editor for The New York Times informed one of us, Harvey Silverglate, that Neil L. Rudenstine — then president of Harvard University — had insisted that Harvard did not have, much less enforce, any “speech codes.” Silverglate suggested the editor dig deeper, because virtually any undergraduate could contest the president’s claim. A mere three years earlier, the faculty of the Harvard Law School had adopted “Sexual Harassment Guidelines” targeted at “seriously offensive” speech. The guidelines were passed in response to a heated campus […]

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  • Young Conservative Defies the PC Campus

    July 11, 2003

    By David Fein at Townhall Initially labeled a “suspicious white male” by police investigating a dispute at the multicultural center on the campus of California Polytechnic State University, student Steve Hinkel continues to defy university officials who want him to apologize for posting a flyer advertising a conservative speaker. The original dispute occurred Nov. 12, 2002, when Hinkle, a member of the College Republicans, entered the Cal Poly Multicultural Center to post a flyer promoting an upcoming speech by Mason Weaver, a conservative black author of the book It’s OK to Leave the Plantation The book analyzes the dangers of blacks […]

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  • Thor Halvorssen and Steve Hinkle on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes

    July 8, 2003

    Thor Halvorssen and Steve Hinkle on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes Transcript, originally aired July 8, 2003 HANNITY: …a California Polytech student was charged and found guilty of a disruption of a campus event after posting a flier advertising a speech by Mason Weaver, the author of the new book “It’s OK to Leave the Plantation.” Now some students reportedly complained that the flier offended them. We contacted the school today and they dispute many of the statements written about this case in recent articles, and they also said federal student privacy laws prevent them from talking about this until […]

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  • School, student settle flier suit

    May 11, 2003

    California Polytechnic State University has settled a lawsuit with a student who was disciplined for posting a flier more than a year ago that some students said was offensive.“This sends a message to college administrators that says you can’t censor speech by re-characterizing it,” said Curt Levey, one of the attorneys in the case and a spokesman for the nonprofit law firm that represented the student, Steve Hinkle.University counsel Carlos Cordova said, “Cal Poly has believed throughout it could have successfully defended against this lawsuit,” but that “Cal Poly entered into the agreement to avoid the cost of further litigation.” […]

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  • Student in San Luis Obispo ‘Tribune’ Hopeful for Cal Poly’s Future with Next President

    August 10, 2010

    The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, California, recently published a guest column by Brendan Pringle, a California Polytechnic State University junior and columnist for the Mustang Daily student newspaper. The article remarks on the retirement of long-serving Cal Poly president Warren Baker and looks forward to Cal Poly’s future. Baker’s record on free speech is marred by his mishandling of a 2002 incident in which student Steve Hinkle was punished for posting a flier on a public bulletin board to advertise a campus speaker. FIRE defended Hinkle, who won a settlement from Cal Poly. Pringle recounts the Hinkle case and its […]

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  • Major Victory for Free Speech at Cal Poly

    May 6, 2004

    SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA—In a major victory for liberty and equal rights on campus, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has settled a free speech lawsuit. The case involved Cal Poly student Steve Hinkle, who was punished for posting a flier on a public bulletin board announcing a College Republicans-sponsored speech by a black social critic. Some students at the campus Multicultural Center found the flier “offensive.” Cal Poly has agreed to expunge Hinkle’s disciplinary record relating to the incident, to permit him to post fliers, and to pay significant attorney’s fees. The settlement of the lawsuit ends a year-long […]

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