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.
25-year-old student Robert Van Tuinen was passing out pocket-sized constitutions at Modesto Junior College in California to celebrate Constitution Day on September 17. However, he was quickly stopped by a police officer.
The confrontation was caught on camera. The police officer tells Robert that he can only pass out constitutions in a designated spot on campus, a free speech spot, and only if he obtains permission in advance from school security.
Robert proceeds to ask the officer if he thinks that is a violation of free speech and first amendment rights, to which the officer replies, “I’m sure it is…but I’m giving you a solution. I’m not trying to stop you, I’m just telling you there is a process you have to go through.”
Robert eventually asks why there is a process, to which the officer responds that it’s because he’s a student at the college.
“But it’s a public college!” Robert Responds.
The whole video of the confrontation is six minutes long, and more than 76,000 people have seen it on YouTube since it’s uploading by FIRE on September 19th.
“Watching the video is a combination of depressing and nauseating, to see what rigamarole students have to go through just to express themselves on campus,” said Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
A school spokeswoman later talked to FOXNews.com and told them that students and the general public are permitted to pass out materials in areas on campus that are generally available to the public, as long as they do not disrupt the orderly operations of the college.
“In the case of the YouTube video, it does not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operations of the college and therefore we are looking into the incident,” Modesto Junior College Marketing and Public Relations officer Linda Hoile said.