Free speech is not allowed on the sidewalk at Modesto Junior College in California. Students must represent an official organization in order to pass out materials or engage in conversation with other students passing by. Even if what they want to distribute is just the U.S. Constitution.
Robert Van Tuinen proved this last week, when he gave out copies of the Constitution to fellow students in honor of Constitution Day. College employees notified Robert that students have to start an official club to engage in free speech on campus, and they must stand in the “free speech area.” Robert was welcome to engage in free speech there, but unfortunately it was mostly booked until October.
According to a FOX News report, Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, “said the very idea of speech codes on campus ought to be troubling to Americans.” “They are imposed in an attempt to sanitize the public space of anything that might offend somebody,” he said. “The fact is, no school specifically needs a speech code….If people are too loud, harassing people, or blocking traffic, they have the means to address that.”
Hopefully, Robert Van Tuinen will plan ahead, and Modesto students will find him and his stack of Constitutions in the “free speech area” on Constitution Day next year. Maybe he could even arrange a group reading of the Bill of Rights.
Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.