Student Sues College After Campus Cops Demand He Get A Free Speech 'Permit' Before Handing Out Fliers

from the stinking-badges dept

Hey, budding adults! Welcome to college! Now, kindly shut up for the next few years.

Cal Poly Pomona’s campus policies impose a web of restrictions before students can distribute literature on campus: They must check in with the Office of Student Life, allow the school to copy their IDs, and wear badges signed by an administrator. Even then, would-be speakers are relegated to the so-called “free speech zone.” Badges can only be issued from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, although the Office of Student Life pledges to “work with” any student who wishes to engage in expressive activity on evenings or weekends. Additionally, students must register in advance for outdoor events, and the Office of Student Life must approve all flyers and posters.

That’s what the First Amendment has been reduced to at Cal Poly Pomona: asking permission, wearing “free speech” badges and a standing-room-only patch of ground. These restrictions have prompted a lawsuit from student Nicolas Tomas, who alleges campus police prevented him from handing out pro-vegan fliers on a campus sidewalk and directed him to jump through the college’s many speech-curbing hoops before exercising his First Amendment rights.

Despite being a public college — which should encourage it to keep its free speech meddling to a minimum — Cal Poly Pomona continues to issue policy-related “Presidential Orders” that strip away students’ First Amendment rights. Because some of these orders haven’t been made public, they’re open to abuse, as Tomas points out in his lawsuit.

Together, the policies establish an unconstitutional “free speech zone” and impose unconstitutional prior restraints on expressive activities that limit free expression at Cal Poly Pomona.

The policies are contradictory, confusing, and do not provide adequate notice to students regarding Cal Poly Pomona’s policies on free expression. For example, the Student Life webpage on the Cal Poly Pomona website provides links to the Interim Freedom of Expression Policy (dated 2002) and the 2008 Presidential Order policies, but not the 2014 Presidential Order.

The inconsistent policies allow administrators to pick and choose provisions that they are going to enforce, allowing them unlimited discretion to promote or silence speech based on its content or the identity of the speaker.

At some point between March 5th and today’s date, CPP personnel updated the site to include the missing 2014 Presidential Order. No new link is provided, nor has the title of the existing link [“New Presidential Order: Use of University Buildings, Facilities, or Grounds (PDF)”] been altered. Only the destination document has. Instead, whoever was in charge of this simply swapped out the 2008 Order for the 2014 Order without any indication this change had taken place. Crafty.

Cal Poly Pomona vows to respect your free speech rights, provided you inform the administration 10 days in advance, are granted permission to speak and are willing to wear a speech permit while remaining in the properly-designated area. That’s just not how free speech works. Tomas is hoping his lawsuit will result in the school’s policies being found unconstitutional. Even if Tomas can’t get the constitutionality declaration and permanent injunction he’s requesting (along with damages and costs), maybe his efforts will push the school to reconsider its policies.

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Comments on “Student Sues College After Campus Cops Demand He Get A Free Speech 'Permit' Before Handing Out Fliers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Do you read the articles or do you just skim them for long hanging fruit to beat?
What is your purpose here? It’s certainly not to encourage a meaningful debate. Nor it is to correct misrepresentation in articles. It seems only to be to attack and discredit the website and/or its authors. At least, that’s what it appears to be, I could be wrong.
Care to explain?

AJ says:

Re: Re:


I usually enjoy reading your counter points on constitution law and other legal related posts. I don’t always agree with you, but you make good arguments. I wish you would stop the petty sniping against the actual authors on this site, and concentrate on the topic itself. It really detracts from your credibility, and causes people not to give you credit when you do contribute to the discussions.

antidirt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Some things are so supremely stupid that no analysis is needed. Tim assumes we are not idiots and understand the First Amendment, are you admitting you don’t?

On the contrary, the First Amendment doctrine in this context is complicated, with forum analysis, levels of scrutiny, etc. You and Tim assume you understand this complicated doctrine. I don’t think either of you do. I was merely pointing out that Tim’s conclusory claim that this is “just not how free speech works” is bullshit. If he wants to draw a legal conclusion, then he should back it up with actual analysis. Or else it’s just more faith-based FUD, which is exactly what his (and your) claim is.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Free Speech Zone

And Alaska 🙁

JustShutUpAndObey didn’t define what “sea” this stretches to. It could stretch from the sea just west of Spain and the sea just East of Japan. I kinda wish it would stretch from the bottom of the Marianas Trench to the “sea” outside of the orbit of Pluto, or maybe anywhere except the set of null (so maybe not in a black hole,) but I can dream.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Free Speech Zone

On one hand I’m a big believer in free speech.
On the other, I’d like to be able to get to class without having to push through a crowd of assorted activists screaming in my face. Or use the open field by my dorm for recreation (its designated purpose).

The idea of Free Speech zones is somewhat distasteful, and the idea of needing a permit, etc. to use them is flat out wrong. But the schools do have to make sure that the protests ate not aggressive or interfering with other student activities.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Free Speech Zone

On the other, I’d like to be able to get to class without having to push through a crowd of assorted activists screaming in my face. Or use the open field by my dorm for recreation (its designated purpose).

Before there were “free speech zones”, this was a problem? Admittedly more than a few years ago (get off my lawn!) my campus allowed activism without any restraint and I never had the problem you are referring to. Sure, sometimes it was almost as annoying as the scouts at the supermarket, but I never saw it as a problem that needed solving.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Noisy rabble rousers! Why don't they take their problems elsewhere so that I can sleep!?

I think the point of noisy speech (e.g. large public protests that obstruct traffic and wake you up in the morning) is that the status quo is truly miserable and intolerable for a whole lot of people! And as much as their commotion might stress you out a bit, that’s not an annoyance of the same magnitude experienced by those who have the problem they’re complaining about in the first place.

Part of being a human being in a large society is our responsibility to have concern and awareness for those of us who are worse off. Even if we cannot directly support them in a way that lifts them out of their circumstance, the least we can do is tolerate when they make noise to raise awareness of their sorry lot.

And if you’re not willing to do even that, to tolerate people crying for help, then you don’t deserve the sweet, sweet fruits of the massive infrastructure that comes with having a huge society (e.g. electricity, running water, internet, WiFi hotspots everywhere, and so on.)

And getting back to the original topic, these campus regulations of free speech are institutionalized intolerance.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Free Speech Zone

“I’d like to be able to get to class without having to push through a crowd of assorted activists screaming in my face”

There are existing, non-Constitutionally-challenged laws that already address this. If a crowd is actually impeding traffic (even foot traffic), that’s violating those laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Free Speech Zone

Yea, a lot of people keep forgetting what Peaceable Assembly means.

Getting up in someone’s grill or screaming loudly to disrupt a speaker is no longer peaceable.

It’s funny how a lot of people on the left like to march in an scream at political functions but cordon off people wanting to do political work at their campuses. Double Standard much?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Free Speech Zone

“On the other, I’d like to be able to get to class without having to push through a crowd of assorted activists screaming in my face. Or use the open field by my dorm for recreation (its designated purpose).”

If you have teeming masses of students protesting each other, sounds like its a “cupcake” college where the degree you earn will soon be worth nada.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: You keep using that word.

This has been a problem ever since liberalism got confused and conflated with the hippy movement. I seem to remember a comment here on TD that explained it all.

Before then, apparently Republicans used to brag about how liberal they were.

Funny thing; back then, Republicans and Democrats weren’t sharply divided into left-wing/right-wing camps. This is a Rovian thing, I think.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The Rove Strategy...

which was to incite polarization of the conservative bloc by using anger points (what is nothing less than classical demagogy, well known as cheapskate grandstanding in ancient Athens), is an extension of the Southern Strategy used in Nixon’s campaign in 1968

Though Wikipedia states that the southern strategy has roots before Nixon’s campaign. 1968 is when it was laid out plainly, where targets, negrophobes were specifically identified and the recognition of dog whistle politics — where you couldn’t outright promise to marginalize and chase off the blacks but just imply it a lot — was acknowledged as relevant and necessary.

Rove simply extended the Southern Strategy to contemporary values politics where campaigns focus on implications of getting rid of gays, minority races, slutty women and non-Christians, and the people don’t care how else GOP representatives behave… which is how they can cause the US government to shut down over the ACA and still have political careers.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Conservative vegans

Surely if you’re willing to generalize liberals to be about control and brainwashing young, impressionable minds you have already generalized conservatives and libertarians to be meat-eaters. Yes?

Speaking of brainwashing young, impressionable minds, last I checked, it was GOP platforms that were pushing to teach creationism and abstinence only sex ed in public schools, to allow churches to present mandatory-attendance programs in to public school students, and to remove critical thinking from school curricula in order to encourage obedience towards authority.

I reckon that authority would include TSA officers who grope them excessively.

Jeff Green (profile) says:

A new college anthem ..

All speech is free, if you agree with everything I think
And never have opinions of your own,
Then any day you’ll have your say and I shan’t even blink
You’ll find that perfect tolerance is shown,
But if instead you use your head and think things for yourself,
I shall ensure a large policeman calls.
True liberty applies to me, all else stays on the shelf,
No other rights pertain within these walls.
One Man One Vote, I am that man,
I do these things because I can!

Wade Giles says:

Well, so much for Universities being the “market place of ideas.” I can’t wrap my head around this nonsense, and even more so that we just accept it, or at most complain about it, then move on. Bravo for this kid for at least attempting to do something. This nation is so far gone, sometimes I believe we may need nothing less than an armed insurrection and our second (or first depending on how you look at it) revolution.

Binko Barnes (profile) says:

It’s no surprise that authoritarians endlessly attempt to exert more dominance and control. It’s been like that throughout human history.

The real story is that the vast majority of the students and faculty are so cowed by the security state, so ignorant of their rights and so fearful in general that they are unwilling to push back.

I went to UC Berkeley back in the ’70s. Any attempt to do anything even remotely like this would have been met with a furious storm of protests and demonstrations.

Anonymous Coward says:

There shouldn’t be anything blocking free speech. That being said, I do think if people want to post stuff around a campus, it needs to be approved. Not to prevent free speech but to curb littering and garbage. Similar thing with groups handing out flyers. It should be allowed and only stopped if it starts to interfere with students’ ability to get to a class. Blocking doors, halls, sidewalks, etc.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Preparing for real life

While I disagree with what they’re doing, this college IS preparing its students for real life. This is just the sort of crap many cities will make you go through to avoid being arrested for protests or the like. Just think back to any presidential candidate event in the last ten years – protesters needed badges and were herded into special zones well away from the caucus (or whatever the event was). Free speech has been under attack for at least the last decade or two. so it’s not surprising to see this reflected in universities.

Mike says:

Students should find other schools to attend!

Want to show this institution just how important and free one’s freedom of speech is? Enroll into a different college and tell Cal Poly Pamons to take a flying leap off a rolling donut! Hit em square in the place that will catch their attention, the pocketbook. If enough students found alternative colleges to enroll into this particular school would howl and cry to the high heavens over the lost revenue. Unfortunately I feel the students couldn’t be bothered enough to even give enough of a f@@k to contemplate it even.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Hopefully the transfer process would be easy.

So that all your records can be sent without superfluous fees or setbacks.

Also, hopefully they use all the same books. And any part of your tuition that is pre-paid is refunded.

Also hopefully there’s a worthwhile accredited university nearby.

So far whenever we’re not talking about weekly groceries, I’ve noticed it’s really difficult for end consumers to vote with their wallet about anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Permit pending...

Your permit has been granted. You are free to reply to this article over there in this(a href..bla…/a) forum that noone ever reads and can’t look at because it is on the other side of the universe and doesn’t have internet access. You’re welcome, sponsored by 1rst amendment, totaly within the law … USA! USA! USA! Freedom and stuff! Yeah!

JustSomeGuy says:

I’m not sure I understand. The first amendment prevents Congress (and the individual states, due to the incorporation doctrine) from making laws that inhibit free speech.

How is that relevant to a university that, even though funded by the state, is not actually a part of the state?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for free speech. I just don’t think the constitution guarantees it except for restricting the government itself from trying to shut it down.

I could be wrong, no doubt there are more learned folk than I here, in which case I’d like to be educated.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If the university is instituted by the state, and funded by the state, it is the state. If that were not so, then we would have no rights at all. Every aspect of government that we deal with–every agency–is instituted and funded by the state.

Take the state police, as a gross example. Under the theory you propose, even though the police were instituted by and funded by the government, they would not “actually be a part of the government” and so would not have to respect your rights.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

Re: Re: Re:

Regardless of whether or not we have the constitutional right to freedom of speech, free speech is an important ideal and should be observed everywhere. You’ll look like a scumbag for demanding students get dissent approved and relegate it to a certain location, regardless of legality.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The general rule is that if an institution is receiving government money, then the Constitution applies to its actions.

Regardless, though, the sidewalks and accessways on a campus — even a private campus — that the general public is allowed access to is treated as a public space. So the first amendement applies. Just ask the owners of shopping malls who’ve lost lawsuits over this very point.

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