Students Challenge Free-Speech Rules on College Campuses

Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, July 1, 2014

College students in California and three other states filed lawsuits against their campuses Tuesday in what is thought to be the first-ever coordinated legal attack on free speech restrictions in higher education.

Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle, a 20-year-old studying computer science, alleged that Citrus College in Glendora had violated his 1st Amendment rights by restricting his petitioning activities to a small “free-speech zone” in the campus quad.

According to Sinapi-Riddle’s complaint, a campus official stopped him last fall from talking to another student about his campaign against spying by the National Security Agency, saying he had strayed outside the free-speech zone. The official said he had the authority to eject Sinapi-Riddle from campus if he did not comply.

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In his lawsuit, Sinapi-Riddle is challenging Citrus’ free-speech zone, an anti-harassment policy that he argues is overly broad and vague and a multi-step process for approving student group events. The college had eliminated its free-speech zones in a 2003 legal settlement with another student, but last year “readopted in essence the unconstitutional policy it abandoned,” the complaint alleged.

College officials were not immediately available for comment. But communications director Paula Green forwarded copies of Citrus’ free-speech policy, which declares that the campus is a “non-public forum” except where otherwise designated to “prevent the substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the college.” The policy instructs the college to enact procedures that “reasonably regulate” free expression.

The “Stand Up for Speech” litigation project is sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based group that promotes free speech and due process rights at colleges and universities. Its aim is to eliminate speech codes and other campus policies that restrict expression.

In a report published this year, the foundation found that 58% of 427 major colleges and universities surveyed maintain restrictive speech codes despite what it called a “virtually unbroken string of legal defeats” against them dating to 1989.

Even in California–unique in the nation for two state laws that explicitly bar free speech restrictions at both public and private universities–the majority of campuses retain written speech codes, he said. {snip}

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The foundation intends to target campuses in each of four federal court circuits; after each case is settled, it will file another lawsuit.

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  • Geo1metric

    F.I.R.E should bring a class-action law suit against all colleges and university that imposes speech codes. The vast majority of these institutions receive federal funding. Take them all down at the same time. SCOTUS would probably eventually hear the case.

    • willbest

      After my taxes and tithing I don’t have a lot left over, but FIRE does get some of it.

  • MekongDelta69

    “Free Speech”[sic and sicker] Zones on campus are equivalent to “Hate Crimes/Speech/Thought” in the rest of the country.

    • SFLBIB

      Actually, speech codes should be called what they are: intentions to persecute because they are selectively enforced.

  • [Guest]

    >>>The policy instructs the college to enact procedures that “reasonably regulate” free expression.

    That’s a fine example of Newspeak. As communications director Paula Green knows full well, if it’s REGULATED (i.e., infringed upon) it is not FREE.

    >>>In a report published this year, the foundation found that 58% of 427 major colleges and universities surveyed maintain restrictive speech codes despite what it called a “virtually unbroken string of legal defeats” against them dating to 1989.

    These colleges and universities, in other words, are above the law—and they know it.

  • If colleges and universities receive public funding and act like quasi-governments, then the 14th Amendment incorporation doctrine should be used to incorporate the Bill of Rights upon them.

    Even though Homeowners Associations don’t receive public funding, (I don’t think), I think the same thing should be done to them because they’re behaving like governments.

    • r j p

      Every Amendment after the 10th should be repealed.

      People, send your kids to Hillsdale College or Grove City if you can.
      Neither one accepts any federal funds.

  • me

    Just because you’re foolish enough to spend thousands of dollars on a worthless college education does not mean that you give away your First Amendment rights when attending. That should be the FIRST lesson you learn at a ‘liberal crap hole’ college….instead of all of the other bull puckey.

  • Luca

    The United States of America is a free-speech zone and has been for hundreds of years. Perhaps these college administrators would be well advised to open up a real history book now and again instead of the revisionist propaganda drivel they are teaching.

    • Katherine McChesney

      Liberals certainly are decadent aren’t they? Socialism, Communism, amorality perversion, censorship. It’s the so-called ‘intellectuals’ and ‘artists’.

  • dd121

    The left has openly attacked free speech for years. What do you think all this “anti-bullying” crapola is? Sounds innocent enough but if you can be silenced because somebody says you’re bullying them, you can be silenced.

  • MBlanc46

    Go FIRE!

  • humura

    In Milwaukee the Left took over the Capitol with daily song-fests of radical songs. The noise probably interfered with work in the legislature. I can imagine loud music/protests on campus that might interfere with classes. But handing out leaflets, discussions, hardly fits that category. And if there is a disturbance, crack down on those causing it – more than likely the Left wing teachers and some of their fans.

    • r j p

      Milwaukee was a joke. The idea that union employees were allowed multiple days off to protest. The idea that they were allowed to live in the Capitol building.

  • IKUredux

    They didn’t make it the “first” amendment for no reason. The Founding Fathers of the United States were among the smartest human beings to ever walk the Earth. Every single American(I mean the Whites who live here and have done so since their ancestors put their butts on the line to develop this country and made it into what it sadly, used to be) should praise God that the the greatest minds IN THE WORLD were somehow, congregating in the same place, at the same time. Seriously, how often does that happen? Yeah, pretty much never. As in, NEVER before. I believe wholeheartedly in the fact that this country once had the blessing of God. Because there is NO WAY in the world that this happy coincidence of geniuses could have occurred without His help. We are talking about a country that was founded by persecuted Christians. Don’t care that they were persecuted by other Christians. It really does not matter. There is no other way to explain the confluence of the brilliant minds of the Founding Fathers.NONE. It was Divine Providence.

  • LHathaway

    “The college had eliminated its free-speech zones in a 2003 legal settlement with another student, but last year “readopted in essence the unconstitutional policy it abandoned,” the complaint alleged”.

    Priceless. They have absolutely no fear of us whatsoever. At least not yet they don’t.

    The irony is that it is these educated elites who have the most to be afraid of. It didn’t go down well for them in places like Cambodia.

    In a just world, it’s not going to go down well for them in the USA. Their incessant calls for ‘social justice’ may one day be answered. Please, God, let it be so.