The Tarrant County College administration has long operated with a heavy paternalistic hand, trying to keep the five-campus institution an insular place. But that’s been counterproductive to one of the college’s vital missions.
“Rather than recognizing that its campus is peculiarly the marketplace of ideas and nurturing the free speech of its students, TCC has largely deprived students of any organized assistance in expressing their views or, indeed, in learning the very process of self-expression,” U.S. District Judge Terry Means wrote recently in finding some of the college’s regulations unconstitutional.
As the Star-Telegram notes, TCC was forced to permit students to engage in “empty holster protests” on campus and wear empty holsters as signs of their opposition to laws that ban concealed carry of weapons on campus. Not only that, TCC had to allow students to distribute literature in the public areas of campus. Furthermore:
Means was even more critical of a TCC rule barring student events co-sponsored by off-campus groups or individuals.
He said the restriction bans such a large amount of constitutionally protected student speech that, for instance, College Republicans and College Democrats couldn’t debate the Texas governor’s race. And officials had less-sweeping ways to ensure that students, faculty and staff have access to campus buildings.
“The court cannot imagine how the provision could have been written more broadly,” Means wrote.
TCC officials have a duty to provide a safe environment. But they can’t restrict messages they don’t like in the name of safety unless there’s a clear threat.
It’s good to see the Star-Telegram so strongly support students’ rights at Tarrant County College and agree that TCC’s unconstitutional restrictions were betraying the college’s own educational mission. Thanks to the Star-Telegram for its coverage of this important decision.