20 September 2013

Another College Restricts Free Speech

Free speech must be "approved" by academia and you have to fill out an application and present a student ID. He couldn't even pass out a copy of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day. Wow.


ropelight said...

At first glance it seems like an easy call - a clear civil rights outrage, incomprehensible in the land of the free - a student prevented from passing out copies of the US Constitution to fellow college students on Constitution Day no less. Ain't it awful?

It's a no-brainer, or so it seems.

But when you watch the video, it quickly becomes obvious the college authorities are behaving reasonably, and it sure looks like Robert, the student, is out to provoke an incident. He intends to start a club on campus and he thinks a little publicity would help get the ball rolling, and he says as much.

Robert Van Tuinen should take a deep breath, slow down, curb his foux victim performance, and follow the rules: file the required paperwork to start a new student organization on campus and apply for permission to pass out copies of the US Constitution on campus.

If he runs into problems he can always report on the Administration's response.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Rope - I originally considered some of your points, but will have to disagree with you. First of all, your premise is flawed. Why should handing out a copy of the Constitution have any chance of "provoking an incident." Why does one need "permission" to hand out literature? If the literature were inciting violence or in violation of the law, then you punish accordingly.

The other problem is academia likes to have everyone believe that their domain are the champions of free speech. That's crap.

ropelight said...

RGW, it isn't the singular act of distributing copies of the Constitution that's provocative, that's a straw-man, and a weak one at that.

Nor is Robert's obsessive attempt to define his activities as a violation of his right to Free Speech at the center of my criticisms. He was repeatedly informed he was free to talk to fellow students.

And, Robert's claim to be on public ground is also without merit. The Modesto college campus isn't an open public forum and although unarmed students are usually allowed to speak their mind, the act of distributing printed material is regulated and requires advance permission. The college has that prerogative, and rightly so.

Now, handing out copies of the US Constitution on Constitution Day certainly seems like it deserves an exception to the college's general prohibition, it's not like Robert was distributing al-Qaeda combat manuals on the anniversary of 9/11, or the latest issue of Muhammad Speaks, or notification of an up-coming KKK rally, or pro-life pamphlets, or even invitations to neighborhood snake churches.

Commonsense efforts to regulate distribution on campus of all sorts of literature, both welcome and unwelcome, could be met with claims of a violation of adherents' Free Speech rights.

Again, it seems like copies of the US Constitution, especially on Constitution Day wouldn't or shouldn't arouse the regulatory instincts of campus authorities, but since the literature Robert was handing out (the video shows he had a box of stuff) was identified as coming from the Heritage Foundation, I suspect that's what triggered the interest of campus officials.

Robert should apply for the required permissions and see what happens, he might come away with a bigger story than the one he's got now.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"the power to grant permission is the power to deny"

Your argument is, on the surface, a reasonable one, but I still think it's the product of an over-reaching "ask authorities for permission to do anything" mentality that's been inoculated in the populace.

This is a singular act and his fundamental right to share information with fellow citizens has been violated.

Jefferson is spinning in his grave.

ropelight said...

Consider well that particular sword cuts both ways and there's no end to the mischief left scattered behind.

If Robert's fundamental right to share information trumps simple campus rules doesn't it also exempt him from municipal codes, local, State, and federal laws, and even Constitutional restraints as well?

After all, isn't the nation just one big campus where sharing information is a fundamental right?

PS: I don't believe Jefferson was a big fan of the Constitution, although he did warm up to it somewhat after the Bill of Rights was added. And, he would indeed be spinning in his grave if he knew what subsequent generations did to it.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Rope - you're viewing this through the perspective of moderns - void of common sense and discretion. Yes, as a matter of fact, sharing information is a fundamental right. There should be absolutely no issue with a student passing out copies of the U.S Constitution on a college campus. The notion is absurd on its face.