UCSD Campus Publications Guard the First Amendment with Vigilance

April 2, 2010

Brenda Madriz Montes, Editor in Chief of the Left Coast Post at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), has written a good letter to the editor of student paper The Guardian this week about the amazingly brash and unconstitutional mass censorship of dozens of student media organizations by Associated Students of UCSD president Utsav Guptawhich apparently was condoned by UCSD counsel.

The letter argues that "as long [sic] the A.S. Council and other students on campus go after student media organizations based on their content, media organizations are going to keep using the First Amendment to defend themselves." The writer adds: "Also, you cannot judge us too harshly for having "wine garden(s)" instead of meetings because: 1) We had to listen to the VP of Finance and Resources explain his government speech model and give horrible analogies, 2) He ignored us when we pointed out the obvious flaws to his plans and 3) We trusted our lawyers and First Amendment rights."

Indeed, ASUCSD members recently floated a "government speech model" whereby all student media organizations would actually be controlled by the ASUCSD, content and all, under the oversight of that VP himself. Fortunately, a majority of the ASUCSD Council realized this for what it was and defeated it. It’s a reminder that widespread oppressive censorship is always closer than we think, and that students must remain vigilant.

Meanwhile, the would-be censors at UCSD are thinking bigger, trying to figure out how to word an anti-hate-speech law for all of the higher education systems of the entire state of California. The Guardian‘s staff editorial rightly criticizes this truly despicable attempt at statewide censorship, despite the presumably good intentions of those involved. The editorial headlines say it all: "A ban on hate won’t stop the downpour. Forcing tolerance could never rid the campus of ignorance. Instead of legislative solutions, we need to work from the ground up." (FIRE does not officially support or oppose legislation, but it is worth pointing out that unconstitutional legislation is unlikely to last very long and is likely to become quite expensive to defend for a state that can’t afford to waste money on First Amendment lawsuits.)

I am very glad that the Left Coast Post and The Guardian (among others) are taking seriously their duty to remain vigilant to protect free speech on campus.

Schools:  University of California, San Diego

Cases:  University of California at San Diego: First Amendment Violations at UCSD