NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
Eric Philips, the Auburn University undergraduate who was forced by the school to remove a campaign sign for Texas Congressman Ron Paul from his dorm room window, says that when it comes to political expression, a double standard exists at his school.
"I just wish I’d been able to express myself," Philips, the president of Auburn for Ron Paul 2012, told The Daily Caller. "I’d just like to advertise for my organization just like all the other organizations can."
A new rule at Auburn states that "hanging or displaying items such as flags, banners, decals, or signs out of or obstructing residence hall windows is prohibited," but Philips said it is rarely, if ever, enforced.
"Everybody’s been putting up banners for years now for their sororities, organizations or even Obama," he said. "I used to see people put up signs for him a few years ago. There’s seems to have never been any enforcement, to tell you the truth."
According to Philips, the residence hall director was "very upset" that he had displayed the Ron Paul sign and was "very assertive" in demanding its immediate removal.
"I complied, but I asked him ‘do you not like Ron Paul?’" Philips said. "He said he didn’t have a preference, but it was odd how upset he was when there’s banners up all over the dorm."
Philips said he wasn’t sure if there were any other political signs up in his dorm when he was asked to remove his, but is still unsure why the school demanded he take it down. He met with the director of housing and asked why other students were allowed to put up signs, but says he came away with few answers as to why they singled him out.
"He was saying that all these people that I bring up don’t have any different contracts than I do individually, but for whatever reason they don’t, and they haven’t, told any of these individuals to take down their banners or their signs," he said.
"This includes sororities, and other people in my dorms, and people all over campus."
Unsure if the school was infringing on his 1st Amendment rights, he reached out to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil libertarian non-profit group. FIRE sent a letter to the school’s president on Philips’ behalf, but was told the school remained "committed to the consistent and nondiscriminatory enforcement" of their no-sign policy.
Philips said that while he does not plan on pursuing any legal action against the school, he feels the rule restricts the right of students to express their beliefs.
"I mean it’s just such a double standard against someone who has a political view, when it seems like we don’t have the freedom to talk issues that are very important," he said.