Student Prevented From Handing Out Copies Of The Constitution Wins Lawsuit Against College

from the free-speech-can't-be-'zoned' dept

Robert Van Tuinen, the Modesto Junior College student who was told by school administration that he couldn't pass out copies of the Constitution on campus, has won his lawsuit (filed with FIRE [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education]) against the school.

California’s Modesto Junior College (MJC) [has] agreed to settle a First Amendment lawsuit filed last October by student Robert Van Tuinen, whom the college prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day...

As part of the settlement, MJC has revised its policies to allow free speech in open areas across campus and has agreed to pay Van Tuinen $50,000. Van Tuinen was represented by the firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Washington, D.C., and assisted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
The college, which previously "fought back" by complaining about negative press and "hatred and cruelty" directed at its staff, has overhauled its free speech policies, opening up the campus to students who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Limited public forums on Modesto Junior College’s campus are “areas generally available to students and the community,” defined as grassy areas, walkways, or other similar common areas.
This is a significant improvement over MJC's previous "free speech area," which was a small concrete slab only accessible to students who had been granted "permission" by the administration in advance to exercise their free speech rights.

The timeframe available to students has also been expanded and is no longer limited to one-hour reserved slots.
Use of free speech areas is permitted every day from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Speakers who will be using the free speech areas outside normal working hours (Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm) are encouraged to notify the Office of Student Development and Campus Life to coordinate their event.
Note the fact that contact is "encouraged" but not required. These new policies are now in effect not just at Modesto Junior College, but at all schools within the Yosemite Community College District.

While this is a heartening win for free expression on MJC's campus, FIRE notes that 59% of colleges nationwide still uphold policies that restrict free expression on campus. That this particular situation resulted in litigation is unfortunate, considering the application of a little common sense by school administrators would have saved the college $50,000 plus whatever it racked up in legal fees defending a stupid, restrictive policy.




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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 7:23am

    Anybody else find it ironic that they attempted to censor a document that gives Americans the right to free speech?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 7:40am

      Re:

      Anybody else find it ironic that they attempted to censor a document that gives Americans the right to free speech?

      Remember that education systems are generally aligned with the "Free speech for me but not for you" political crowd. The general left clearly has no problem with oppressing someones rights so long as it fits their agenda. It used to be the right that did this. Funny how those that rightfully opposed slavery now seek to impose another form of slavery in response, eh?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 7:57am

        Re: Re:

        The Left is responsible for the PC enforced "Free Speech Zones" on campuses.

        Case in point, Harvard has printed this speech stifling article to push the "Free speech for me, but not for you" agenda where the Left gets to decide what is "oppressive", thus creating "Free Speech Zones" in journalism.

        In the Harvard Crimson, Sandra Korn's article:
        "The Doctrine of Academic Freedom: Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice.”

        Its author, a Harvard undergraduate named Sandra Y.L. Korn, argued that the concept of academic freedom should be replaced by one of academic justice. “When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression,” she proposed, “it should ensure that this research does not continue.” To a large extent, of course, the American academy is already under the thumb of the left-wing Thought Police; Ms. Korn only wants to complete the job.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So, we should not be allowed to say that we believe that research of such a nature should not continue? Or are you arguing that this kind of throught is solely the province of the left-wing school of thought?

          Because I can assure you, that is not the case for the American elite.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            More speech is the answer, not stifled/censored speech.

            Argue against a position until you're exhausted, but don't do as Harvard has condoned in the Crimson article: "When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression,...it should ensure that this research does not continue.”

            The academic community should not be determining what is oppressive, period. The best way to "out" oppression is to let the speaker shoot themselves in the foot.

            The TD article is about a person handing out literature that the school found unacceptable outside the "Free Speech Zones" and prosecuted the offender.

            Who inhabits academia? Of the majority of Top academic centers, the Left clearly holds the leading positions setting the tone for "Free speech for me, but not for you" attitude with "Free Speech Zones".

            Please post anything to appose this study...

            "...studies on this subject was conducted in 2003 by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC)"

            "In its examinations of more than 150 departments and upper-level administrations at the 32 elite colleges and universities, the CSPC found that the overall ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans was more than 10 to 1 (1397 Democrats, 134 Republicans). Although in the nation at large, registered Democrats and Republicans were roughly equal in number, not a single department at any of the 32 schools managed to achieve anything even remotely approaching parity between the two. The closest any school came to parity was Northwestern University, where 80% of the faculty members were registered Democrats and 20% were registered Republicans. At other schools, the ratios of faculty Democrats to faculty Republicans were as follows:"

            Brown University: 30 to 1
            Bowdoin College: 23 to 1
            Wellesley College: 23 to 1
            Swarthmore College: 21 to 1
            Amherst College: 18 to
            Bates College: 18 to 1
            Columbia University: 14 to 1
            Yale University: 14 to 1
            University of Pennsylvania: 12 to 1
            Tufts University: 12 to 1
            UCLA: 12 to 1
            UC Berkeley: 12 to 1
            Smith College: 11 to 1
            At four schools, the researchers could not identify a single Republican on the faculty:

            Williams College: 51 Democrats, 0 Republicans
            Oberlin College: 19 Democrats, 0 Republicans
            MIT: 17 Democrats, 0 Republicans
            Haverford College: 15 Democrats, 0 Republicans

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:11am

        Re: Re:

        Your partisanship has blinded you to the fact that this is not something unique to the "left" (I put that in quotes because there hasn't been an effective liberal political force in the US for a long time now). The right is just as eager to suppress people's rights when it fits their agenda.

        Neither side has high ground here.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 9:03am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Clearly you need to define liberal if you think-
          "there hasn't been an effective liberal political force in the US for a long time now"

          Two recent developments that the liberal (defined in the US) political force has produced:
          Obamacare and announcement of the Downsizing the US military

          Where do you live?

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

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 9:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Two recent developments that the liberal (defined in the US) political force has produced:
            Obamacare and announcement of the Downsizing the US military


            Obamacare (you know, health insurance provided by private for-profit corporations) was originally an idea from a conservative think tank. Republicans only opposed it because Obama. The military downsizing was proposed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a Republican.

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

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 10:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Obamacare was an overtly conservative plan thought up by a conservative think tank and very popular amongst conservatives -- until a Democrat backed it, then it became evil. So I'm not sure of your point.

            As to downsizing of the military -- what does that have to do with liberal vs conservative?

            I say there is no effective liberal political force in the US today because its' true. Can you name such a force? Obama isn't liberal, he's centrist. The corporate media isn't liberal, it's corporate. There are a handful of actual liberals in congress, but only a handful.

            What has happened is that conservatives have been consciously and systematically redefining "liberal" and "conservative" to push everything further to the right, so what they call "liberal" now is actually right-leaning. In terms of what these labels actually mean, liberalism in the US government is all but dead.

            I am actually a liberal. When I was in my 20s, I fell a bit to the left of "centrist". Now, I'm a howling liberal radical. My views and attitudes have not shifted one bit -- but the way the terms are defined have.

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

      • icon
        The Mighty Buzzard (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:21am

        Re: Re:

        Erm... Wrong group on slavery opposition. The Republican party was founded on opposition to slavery. The Dems were the ones who thought it should stick around. Common misconception though.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Republican_Party

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's because the democrats historically were a conservative party. It was northern Republicans who were considered liberal.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous, 27 Feb 2014 @ 9:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          And it was basically the Republican party that passed the Civil Rights Act back in the Sixties, over the opposition of the Democrats. FWIW.

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

          • identicon
            Baron von Robber, 27 Feb 2014 @ 9:18am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Conservative Democrats in particular.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 9:24am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So Conservatives were historically correct...ok

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

              • identicon
                Baron von Robber, 27 Feb 2014 @ 9:33am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Historically correct? I can't parse that. What do you mean?

                I was pointing out that the Conservative Democrats were a strong politcal force in the 60s. They were mostly in the South. Which is why they opposed the Act.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 10:37am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Not sure why you can't figure out the phrase.
                  "Conservatives were historically (with reference to past events) correct (verb - put right an error or fault)

                  Progressive Woodrow Wilson - Racist / KKK Marcher

                  This from Republican 1960's party platform:
                  "The Republican Party—the party of Abraham Lincoln—from its very beginning has striven to make this promise a reality. It is today, as it was then, unequivocally dedicated to making the greatest amount of progress toward the objective.

                  We recognize that discrimination is not a problem localized in one area of the country, but rather a problem that must be faced by North and South alike. Nor is discrimination confined to the discrimination against Negroes. Discrimination in many, if not all, areas of the country on the basis of creed or national origin is equally insidious. Further we recognize that in many communities in which a century of custom and tradition must be overcome heartening and commendable progress has been made.

                  The Republican Party is proud of the civil rights record of the Eisenhower Administration. More progress has been made during the past eight years than in the preceding 80 years. We acted promptly to end discrimination in our nation's capital. Vigorous executive action was taken to complete swiftly the desegregation of the armed forces, veterans' hospitals, navy yards, and other federal establishments."

                  http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25839

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

                  • identicon
                    Baron von Robber, 27 Feb 2014 @ 11:02am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    You seem to be confusing conservative with Republican and liberal with Democrat.

                    It would be better phrased "Republicans were historically correct".

                    As I pointed out, Conservative Democrats in the past were pretty much on the wrong side of things, up until around the 80s thru 90s where things seemed to reverse. Conservative power shifted to the Republicans during the Regan Administration.

                    You don't hear of Conservative Democrats anymore.

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

                    • identicon
                      Zonker, 27 Feb 2014 @ 12:17pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      And Abraham Lincoln was quite the liberal Republican, which is probably why the extreme conservative Republicans of today, such as Ron Paul, have started talking about how terrible Lincoln was at being Republican in their view.

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

                      • icon
                        art guerrilla (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 12:21pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        and this is why i hate on BOTH parties: they are simply hydra heads of the same Korporate Money Party which rules us all...

                        (and, i guaran-dog-damn-tee you that if you cut off one hydra head, two Korporate Money Party heads would re-grow in its place...)

                        no, a pox on both their houses, they deserve it...

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

              • identicon
                Pragmatic, 28 Feb 2014 @ 4:20am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I don't think you understand what "conservative" and "liberal" mean.

                It is a partisan thing, in the wake of the "ideological purity" movement on the right, to deem all Republicans conservative and all Democrats liberal/socialist. This is not the case, and it never really has been.

                Actually, back in the day, Republicans were the left-leaning liberals. Now they've shifted right, and have been moving in that direction since the Seventies due to the Southern Strategy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy

                Stop letting other people do your thinking for you.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 7:42am

      Re:

      Document giving Americans the right to free speech, what document? I don't see any such document we already censored.

      Oh, you already have a copy of it and you're going to read it to me! I don't have to listen to you!

      *Covers ears and starts shouting over everyone*

      LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU!

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

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:13am

    Free Speech Zones

    The very term is incredibly offensive, and I'm disappointed that they continue to use it.

    With a tiny handful of exceptions, everywhere is a free speech zone.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:43am

      How it should work:

      "You need to move to one of the designated 'Free Speech Zones' if you want to continue to talk, and you're only allowed to talk after receiving permission from the proper authorities"

      "I'm already in the 'Free Speech Zone', it's called the entire gorram country. As for 'permission', I've already got that too, courtesy of some musty old piece of paper, maybe you've heard of it, the bill of rights, in particular the first entry on it."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:22am

    good on ya fella! try for a job in the entertainment industries when you leave college. they like being on the wining side. you've started right, although it would be even better if you worked for a free, public group

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 9:33am

      Re:

      try for a job in the entertainment industries when you leave college. they like being on the wining side.

      Not sure if that's a typo of "winning" or "whining".

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

  • icon
    scotts13 (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 8:32am

    Limited free speech

    Decades ago, at the height of the cold war, Robert Heinlein once joked how reforms in communist China would provisionally allow "Limited free speech on alternate Tuesdays." That vibration you feel is the old boy doing 5,000 RPM in his grave.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 1:45pm

    Whole Country is a Free Speech Zone

    The whole frigging country is a free speech zone ... or at least it was, when this country was founded.

    If it isn't now, then our government has become tyrannical enough to be overthrown just like bad old King George.

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

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 27 Feb 2014 @ 3:02pm

      Re: Whole Country is a Free Speech Zone

      No, not really.

      It's nice to think so, but for blacks and women, not really.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 5:06pm

        Re: Re: Whole Country is a Free Speech Zone

        It's nice to think so, but for blacks and women, not really.

        Blacks and women don't have free speech rights?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 5:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: Whole Country is a Free Speech Zone

          "Blacks and women don't have free speech rights?"

          Not in the period of history to which the prior post was referring.

          ref:
          "The whole frigging country is a free speech zone ... or at least it was, when this country was founded."

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

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 27 Feb 2014 @ 10:02pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Whole Country is a Free Speech Zone

            Not in the period of history to which the prior post was referring.

            ref:
            "The whole frigging country is a free speech zone ... or at least it was, when this country was founded."


            Ah, I get it now.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 4:02pm

    "policies to allow free speech"?

    Not really free if you have to be given permission, is it?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2014 @ 4:45pm

    We know you read this, Just Sayin'/horse with no name, so enjoy the fact that the due process you regularly shit on got enforced. Again. Despite your hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing about how the Techdirt writers got it wrong, wrong, wrong, looks like you got the shit end of the stick of being disproved. Makes your little dick sad, we know.

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

  • icon
    Roger (profile), 15 Jun 2014 @ 11:37am

    I also think that very term is offensive, and I am really not happy to listen that they continue to use it. If we leave some rear exceptions, there is free speech zone in the colleges/university. The students should have the right to express their views.

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

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  • identicon
    Srmeee, 4 Oct 2016 @ 1:02am

    Blacks and women don't have free speech rights?
    It's nice to think so, but for blacks and women, not really.

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