In a sequence that is fast becoming ubiquitous, another college is working to stifle the freedom of speech of its students. This story comes to us from Modesto Junior College, where student Robert Van Tuinen was told that he could not pass out copies of the Constitution on… (Wait for it)… Constitution Day. Campus police and administrative officials demanded that Mr. Van Tuinen cease and desist from passing out his copies of the Constitution. They told him that he could only pass them out in the college’s free speech zone, and that he could only do that after scheduling to use the free speech zone several days in advance.
Van Tuinen was in the process of trying to engage his fellow students on campus in the hopes of beginning a local chapter of the organization Young Americans for Liberty. His idea was to hand out copies of the Constitution to spark interest among his classmates, and perhaps use that as a springboard to starting a chapter at Modesto Junior College.
On the day in question, Van Tuinen had been handing out copies of the Constitution for about ten minutes when campus police arrived to order him to stop the activity. After arguing for a while about free speech rights with the officer, Van Tuinen obliged the campus cop by moving into the student center to discuss the situation. Once inside, the student tried to explain what he was doing to the officer, who would hear none of it, but simply replied, “As a student on campus passing out anything whatsoever, you have to have permission through the Student Development office.”
Van Tuinen would eventually speak with campus administrator, Christine Serrano, who parroted the campus police officer’s statements that the student could only engage in this type of behavior in the free speech zone with pre-approval from campus authorities. When Van Tuinen protested, the only option presented to him was a sit down meeting with another campus official who would explain to him when and where he could engage in free speech.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (or FIRE) has taken up Mr. Van Tuinen’s defense and demanded that Modesto Junior College change its ridiculous anti-speech policy. FIRE senior Vice President Robert Shibley said, “Your right to engage in free speech in this country is not contingent on the contents of some bureaucrat’s binder, and the fact that two people on campus are currently speaking their minds doesn’t mean you can’t… Virtually everything that Modesto Junior College could do wrong, it did do wrong. It sent police to enforce an unconstitutional rule, said that students could not freely distribute literature, placed a waiting period on free speech, produced an artificial scarcity of room for free speech with a tiny ‘free speech area,’ and limited the number of speakers on campus to two at a time. This was outrageous from start to finish. Every single person at Modesto responsible for enforcing this policy should have known better.”
Liberal colleges across the country continue to repress the rights of our young citizens while legislators sit idly by. Meanwhile, groups like FIRE are forced to fight case by case examples of these attacks on free speech because our government does not step in and demand that our freedom of speech be protected. Conservatives should not have to take our schools to court every time we want to speak freely about some issue. Everyone, not just liberals, have the right to speak their mind. It’s time these colleges and Universities learned that.
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