By Editorial Board at LA Daily News
College administrators are in the business of education. So what is it about their own academic careers that has left so many of them so woefully uneducated about the historical importance of free speech in America?
Time and again, highly paid bureaucrats at Southern California public colleges and universities have created unconstitutional “free speech zones” on their campuses aimed not at encouraging free speech but rather at throttling and ghettoizing it. They make up these rules and create tiny little areas for pamphleteering and politicking even though when they do so they frequently are breaking the laws not only of our free-speech friendly nation but the rules of their own college systems.
And they do so because they deep down fundamentally disagree with the very idea of free speech so profoundly that they would rather see it go away than have to listen to views with which they disagree.
We recently laid into the administrators at Citrus College in Glendora when they not just once but twice tried to choke down on political freedom of expression on their campus. Incredible as it was, their innate dislike of unbridled discourse caused them to recreate a free-speech zone after they had already agreed it was wrong and unconstitutional the first time.
Now it’s the Deans of Dimwittedness at Cal Poly Pomona who just can’t stand to listen to what their students have to say.
Nicolas Tomas, 24, a Cal Poly senior majoring in nutrition, began handing out Vegan Outreach pamphlets on campus advocating that diet and decrying the treatment of farm animals in the fall of 2013. He gave fliers to a couple of hundred students occasionally as they entered or left a campus parking garage. As anyone who has ever been on a college campus knows, this is not exactly unusual behavior. Those who wish to decline the flier just do so — no harm, no foul.
But campus security and administrators created imaginary guidelines and then approached him, asking, “Do you have a permit? You need to leave if you don’t have a permit.”
A permit for what? To engage in political free speech, as high-minded undergraduates have been doing on American college campuses for generations? Where did these administrators get their understanding of what freedom of expression means — Tiananmen Square?
So Tomas met last fall with university administrators, who told him he had to restrict his pamphlet distribution to 154 square feet of grass between the university library and its student center.
When he declined that offer and was handing out fliers elsewhere in February, two campus cops and a man in a suit told him to cease and desist and not to do it again unless he was wearing a badge signed by a campus administrator. Should he get a hall pass, too?
It turns out that a Cal State handbook on free speech specifically allows pamphleteering and the like most anywhere on campus that is not indoors or within 50 feet of a classroom. So the campus wasn’t even following its own rules. But now, thanks to the excellent Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Cal Poly Pomona is being sued by Tomas in the same way that Citrus College got slapped with a $110,000 penalty last year.
Don’t follow the free-speech news, Cal Poly? Soon you may pay the price for that.