Yesterday evening, San Diego’s Channel 10 covered FIRE’s case at Southwestern College (SWC), which maintains a single “free speech patio”—making the rest of campus effectively a “censorship zone.” Two weeks ago today, a few dozen students and faculty members left the patio after a protest rally in order to have a conversation with the college’s president, Raj Chopra, but they were stopped by police, and that night, the three faculty members (as well as a fourth who was merely passing by) were banned from campus.
As Channel 10 reports on 10News.com,
The case is getting a lot of attention, even nationally. 10News obtained a letter, written by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, directed at the president of Southwestern College, Raj Chopra. In it, they said Southwestern College’s actions send the message that “speech that is unpopular with authorities is to be feared, restrained and monitored. FIRE is concerned you appear to be using the campus police to intimidate professors and students.” [link added]
The professors were banned in part for “[i]ncitement of students to move outside the free speech area.” This looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen. In light of today’s FIRE press release regarding a “free speech zone” lawsuit filed against Tarrant County College in Texas, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one challenged as well. A similar free speech zone at Texas Tech University (the “free speech gazebo”) fell at the hand of a federal judge, and FIRE has defeated other free speech zones on campuses across the nation, including the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, West Virginia University, University of Nevada at Reno, and Citrus College in California. None of these free speech zones could withstand public scrutiny, and it seems to me that SWC’s “free speech patio” is not going to last very long, either.