College That Told Student He Couldn't Hand Out Copies Of The Constitution Now Heavily Revising Its Speech Policies

from the but-it-took-a-lawsuit-to-get-it-done dept

California's Modesto Junior College, best known for telling a student (Robert Van Tuinen) he couldn't hand out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day, has now reached a temporary ceasefire with Van Tuinen, who filed a lawsuit against the college at the beginning of October.

Modesto Junior College (MJC) has agreed to suspend enforcement of its “free speech zone” as it negotiates an end to a federal lawsuit filed by a student prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on campus on Constitution Day.

A joint stipulation filed in federal district court yesterday by MJC and attorneys for student Robert Van Tuinen states that the parties have agreed on several significant revisions to the college’s “free speech policies and procedures,” pending final approval by the Yosemite Community College District, expected this spring.
Van Tuinen noted when he filed the lawsuit that he was primarily interested in changing the college's "free speech" policies -- which is now what finally seems to be happening. The most onerous regulations -- limiting speech to the so-called "free speech zone" (a.k.a. the "little cement area") and only with administration approval secured several days in advance -- appear to have been written out of the new policy.
The proposed procedures would change district denial of permission to speak or distribute materials in open areas from “at its discretion” to “in a manner consistent with applicable law.” In general, the policy limits hate speech, use of microphones, soliciting money except for campus groups, blocking passers-by or being disruptive. It says people distributing materials should pick up the discards lying around campus.
As FIRE President Greg Lukanioff notes, these moves put MJC's policies more "in line" with the First Amendment rather than operating in its proprietary First-Amendent-Free zone. Free speech isn't really free when its routed through layers of administrative bureaucracy and sent to wait in line for a chance to utilize the "little cement area" so graciously begrudgingly bestowed by the college.

Trying to create a stress-free environment by ensuring as little free speech as possible occurs on campus is a disservice to students. It does nothing but allow administrators to avoid the uncomfortable situations and confrontations that necessarily arise from the exercise of free speech. Running an institute of higher learning isn't supposed to be easy. If it is, you're doing something wrong. The real world isn't the sort of place where speech never offends. It also isn't the sort of place where speech, offensive or not, waits in line patiently. Creating an insular environment handicaps the same people administrators are supposed to be preparing for the future. It's good to see the district will be removing this ridiculous policy, which has done little but serve as a crutch for administrators who dislike being challenged.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:11pm

    Spam above.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Manok, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:30pm

    Re:

    Isn't that called free speech too? ^^

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 11:22pm

    Re: Re:

    We have the freedom to press the report button!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 12:18am

    Hmm, correct me if wrong but.. A bad policy is corrected and everything is returned to a non-extreme norm. Seem's like a correct application of Democracy to me. Just wish the same thing applied to our government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    TheLoot (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 1:54am

    Re: Re:

    Nah, TechDirt has a policy of prohibiting "soliciting money except for TechDirt groups", so it's fine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 2:27am

    It's good to see the US Constitution applies to places of learning. That campus guard should be ashamed of himself for trying to humiliate Robert in front of his peers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 4:38am

    Re: Re:

    No, it's called spam.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    gyffes, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 6:45am

    Re:

    And yet STILL better than anything Horse or OOTB have ever contributed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re:

    Spam may be free speech, but TechDirt does not have to pay to host it.

    Off topic irrelevancies can be deleted by the site owner. Otherwise, anyone could come here and clutter up the discussion with any irrelevant subject, like OOTB.

    A spammer, or OOTB for that matter, is as free as anyone else is to set up their own website or blog and attract people to it. If people don't come, that does not justify being able to pollute other forums.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Dec 21st, 2013 @ 6:14am

    Re:

    Too bad they had to sue to get get their basic rights.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Get in line.

    "It also isn't the sort of place where speech, offensive or not, waits in line patiently."

    And now these proposed changes get to "wait in line patiently" "pending final approval by the Yosemite Community College District". Will they or won't they be approved? Who knows. Until then, STFU unless you have prior approval.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2013 @ 11:35pm

    Well, well. Looks like horse with no name was wrong. Shock horror!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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