Student Sues Cal Poly Pomona, Claims Free Speech Restricted

March 31, 2015

By John Schreiber at

A Cal Poly Pomona student sued the university Tuesday for allegedly restricting how federally protected free speech rights can be exercised on campus.

Nicolas Tomas filed the suit in Los Angeles federal court, contending that campus police last month stopped him from distributing animal rights fliers on the sidewalk and asked him to obtain a badge and permit to pass out the fliers only in a tiny, designated “free speech” zone.

A representative for the university was not immediately available for comment.

“I came to college excited not only to further my education but to also participate in more activism,” Tomas said. “But I soon learned that it was going to be very difficult to share my beliefs with other students at Cal Poly, and that was very disappointing to me.

“This lawsuit is going to ensure that all students at Cal Poly are able to exercise their free speech rights without having to ask the school for permission,” he said. “I can’t wait until students’ First Amendment rights are restored.”

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction restraining enforcement of the college’s “unconstitutional” free speech rules and unspecified damages.

“At Cal Poly, students have to wear a free speech badge in the free speech zone and can only get that authorization on weekdays,” said Greg Lukianoff, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

“This is a cartoonish violation of the First Amendment, almost beyond parody,” he said. “Requiring students to obtain permits to speak at a public university is not just unconstitutional; it discourages students from engaging with the campus community on the issues they are most passionate about.”

Schools: California Polytechnic State University Cases: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project