The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, California, recently published a guest column by Brendan Pringle, a California Polytechnic State University junior and columnist for the Mustang Daily student newspaper. The article remarks on the retirement of long-serving Cal Poly president Warren Baker and looks forward to Cal Poly’s future.
Baker’s record on free speech is marred by his mishandling of a 2002 incident in which student Steve Hinkle was punished for posting a flier on a public bulletin board to advertise a campus speaker. FIRE defended Hinkle, who won a settlement from Cal Poly. Pringle recounts the Hinkle case and its effect on campus speech:
Although the administration would prefer to erase this incident from its memory, Cal Poly lost $40,000 in attorney fees after trying to punish a student for exercising his right to free speech.
Eight years later, Cal Poly still remains a yellow-light campus in matters of free speech (as rated by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), as current regulations still produce chilling effects for students trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.
You can check out Cal Poly’s yellow-light rating here.
Pringle rightly notes that the change in university leadership at Cal Poly offers the new president an opportunity to reform its policies and restore a true marketplace for ideas. Pringle says he is "optimistic that our next president will possess a greater respect for the free speech of students on campus."
We at FIRE hope so, too.