By Staff at Good4Utah.com
ST GEORGE (ABC 4 Utah) – Three Dixie State University students filed a lawsuit against the university stating that their right to free speech were violated. William Jergins, a senior at DSU, told ABC4’s Tasmin Mahfuz that he founded the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at DSU last fall semester and was frustrated when the university banned his fliers to advertise the club.
He said that someone else had tried to establish a chapter on campus prior to him but the university denied their request and required them to merge with a different organization.
“It took weeks for us to start a separate chapter that could actually operate independently of the other club,” Jergins said.
A libertarian all his life, Jergins wanted to attract members to the new student group so on October 13 2014, William and his peers, Joey Jergins and Forest Gee, submitted three fliers to the university for an approval to publicize an upcoming meeting on campus.
The university denied their request stating that the flyers had negative portrayals of President Obama, former President George W Bush and Marxist leader Che Guevara.
“It was just to get attention to our club and bring up kind of what we believed or sit for in sort of a fun, satirical way,” Jergins said.
One flier is of President Obama with him saying, “Get in my Belly!” followed by the title, “Don’t be consumed by the state”.
Another flier is of Che Guvera that says “Real rebels don’t support centralized state authority.”
The third flier is of former President George W Bush. On it, Bush says, “Miss me yet?” and a cat responds, “Why aren’t you in prison” followed by the title “Learn to hold your leaders accountable.”
“I didn’t think they would be denied,” Jergins said.
According to the DSU Poster and Advertising Guidelines, posters and display materials “may not single out any individual group(s) or entities in a derogatory manner” and that “Dixie State University reserves the right to remove any posted materials that do not meet our posted guidelines.”
Jergins said he was shocked. Then, with the help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, they filed a federal First Amendment lawsuit. Eight administrators are listed in the suit including DSU President Biff Williams and the Dean of Students Del Beatty.
“Our rights are a big deal. They’re what we’re entitled to as US Citizens and not allowing us to have that just because of it doesn’t agree with the college rules is just messed up so we filed this lawsuit to show the school ‘\this isn’t acceptable. This isn’t what we’re going to tolerate. We need you to step up,” Joey Jergins said.
DSU denied ABC4 an on-camera interview stating, “Dixie State University does not comment on pending litigation.”
Jergins didn’t think the flyers were a big deal.
“I think the guidelines were a little bit off because that’s just kind of what politics is. We make fun of the people we don’t necessarily agree with in a satirical way to get attention and draw followers that way,” Jergins added.
FIRE is a nonprofit foundation that has provided attorneys to represent the students during the lawsuit. They also mailed letters to 300 colleges across the country to warn them that they too risk First Amendment lawsuits.