George Mason University: Unconstitutional Policies and Suppression of Dissent


George Mason University

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Case Overview


GMU student and Air Force veteran Tariq Khan protested military recruiters on campus by silently standing near their table with a "Recruiters Lie" sign taped to his chest while passing out handbills. According to witnesses, a student assaulted Khan and took his sign within less than 30 minutes. Yet the police arrested Khan, not the other students involved in the ensuing fracas, allegedly because he had violated GMU Policy 1110. The ACLU of Virginia came to Khan's legal aid, and FIRE discovered that GMU maintains several unconstitutional policies limiting freedom of expression. FIRE wrote GMU President Alan G. Merten, pointing out that Policy 1110 bans on-campus distribution of newspapers that are "inconsistent with the mission of the University" and subjects all newspaper distribution on campus to prior administrative review-a clear violation of the First Amendment right to dissent. GMU responded to FIRE with a brief letter, saying that it has "launched a review of all of its policies on the use of public space" on campus and that a "faculty led committee" will recommend changes; the criminal charges against Khan were dropped. However, GMU's letter specified no deadline for the committee to make its policy changes, nor did it address FIRE's concerns about the unconstitutionality of its current policies.