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.
by Robby Soave in The Daily Caller
A police officer at Modesto Junior College in California told a patriotic libertarian student that it was against college rules for him to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus.
Ironically, this flagrant violation of the student’s Constitutional rights took place on September 17th: Constitution Day.
The exchange between student Robert Van Tuinen and a campus police officer was captured on video. Tuinen told the officer that he wished to start a Young Americans for Liberty chapter on campus, and hoped that passing out copies of the Constitution would generate interest in that. The officer, however, maintained that Van Tuinen was not allowed to distribute flyers without college authorization.
“Anytime anything is being passed out it has to be… you have to go through the Student Development office,” said the officer.
The irony of being told to stop distributing copies of the Constitution was not lost on Van Tuinen.
“Do you know what this is?” he responded. “Why are their rules tied to my free speech?”
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right of people to exercise free speech and peaceably assemble in public places.
Nevertheless, the officer brought Van Tuinen to the Student Development office, where administrator Christine Serrano told him that he could only hand out flyers while inside a “free speech zone” on campus.
The zone is a sad little circle of cement. It only fits two people, and was booked for days.
When Van Tuinen insisted that he had a First Amendment right to hand out flyers wherever he pleased, Serrano told him, “You really don’t need to keep going on.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education lambasted the college’s callous and Orwellian behavior, asserting that Van Tuinen did indeed have the right to distribute copies of the Constitution wherever he pleased.
“Passing out flyers outdoors is one of the most Constitutionally-protected activities there is,” said FIRE Senior Vice President told The Daily Caller. “Every single person enforcing this should have realized something was wrong.”
FIRE sent a letter to the college advising it to drop its free speech prohibition immediately.
Shibley warned that while Modesto’s policy takes the cake for heavy-handed oppressiveness, dozens of other campuses have similarly unconstitutional policies.
“Out of the 400 largest and most prestigious schools that FIRE evaluates, 1 in 6 have free speech zones,” he said. “This sort of thing is happening at 1 in 6 schools.”