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California college bars student from handing out copies of Constitution

Posted by on Sep. 20, 2013 at 10:58 AM
  • 13 Replies

source

The Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, but don’t try to pass out copies of it at Modesto Junior College in California.

A student at the school who tried to pass out pocket-size pamphlets of the very document that memorializes our rights got shut down on Sept. 17 – a date also known as Constitution Day.

 Campus authorities told 25-year-old Robert Van Tuinen, who caught the whole thing on videotape, he could only pass out the free documents at a tiny designated spot on campus, and only then if he scheduled it several days in advance.

“Watching the video is a combination of depressing and nauseating, to see what rigamarole students have to go through just to express themselves on campus,” said Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has taken on campus speech codes around the nation.

Van Tuinen, who said he’d read up on the school’s regulations and expected to get chased away from outside the student center, went to FIRE with the video. The foundation penned an email letter to the school’s administration on Van Tuinen’s behalf early Thursday, but Shibley said there had been no response later in the day.

A spokeswoman for the college tells FoxNews.com that students and the general public are permitted to pass out materials in areas on campus that are generally available to the public, as long as they do not disrupt the orderly operations of the college.

"In the case of the YouTube video, it does not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operations of the college and therefore we are looking into the incident," Modesto Junior College Marketing and Public Relations officer Linda Hoile said. 

In the video, Van Tuinen is confronted by an unidentified campus police officer within minutes of passing out the pamphlets. When he protests, he is told “there are rules.”

“But do you know what this is?” he asks. “What are the rules? Why are the rules tied to my free speech?”

Van Tuinen explains that he wants to start an organization called Young Americans for Liberty.

“That’s fine, but if you’re going to start an organization like that you have to go through the rigamarole,” the police officer tells him.

"It was a tense situation," Van Tuinen, who is from Modesto, told FoxNews.com. "To be told I can't do something as basic as handing out the Constitution was frustrating."

Eventually, the police officer escorts Van Tuinen into an administrative office, where an unidentified woman shows him a binder with rules she says govern free speech on campus. She explains that there is a designated place “in front of the student center, in that little cement area,” where free expression is allowed, but then notes that two people are already using it.

“You’d have to wait,” she says. “You could go on (Sept.) 20th, the 27th or you can go into October.”

Eventually he is advised to make an appointment with Brenda Thames, vice president of student services, who can explain the policy. 

Shibley said he was angered by the video, but not surprised.

“One of the revealing things about this particular case is what students have to go through just to express themselves on campus,” Shibley said.

He 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. They have the ability keep order on campus . Of people are too loud, harassing people, or blocking traffic they have the means to address that.”


by on Sep. 20, 2013 at 10:58 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Sisteract
by Whoopie on Sep. 20, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Interesting- Modesto is in the "conservative" part of the state-

SewingMamaLele
by Leanne on Sep. 20, 2013 at 12:21 PM


Quoting Sisteract:

Interesting- Modesto is in the "conservative" part of the state-

Modesto is actually pretty evenly split.  But, what does that have to do with this post?

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candlegal
by Judy on Sep. 20, 2013 at 12:34 PM

you are only allowed to pass something out if they approve, SMH

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Sep. 20, 2013 at 12:56 PM
2 moms liked this

 Not the Constitution.....NOOOOOoooooo.

Now if he wanted to hand out party flyers or something for a gay event, he'd be golden. 

candlegal
by Judy on Sep. 20, 2013 at 1:03 PM

You better believe it.

Quoting TranquilMind:

 Not the Constitution.....NOOOOOoooooo.

Now if he wanted to hand out party flyers or something for a gay event, he'd be golden. 


momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Sep. 20, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Can't wait until he's looking for a job.  So many companies are looking for employees who won't follow any rules that inconvenience them.  

Anyone who has a smart phone or laptop has instant access to the text of the Constitution, without killing more trees for paper copies.   

garnet83
by Member on Sep. 20, 2013 at 2:05 PM
1 mom liked this

 “They are imposed in an attempt to sanitize the public space of anything that might offend somebody,”

If someone is offended by the Constitution, we really do have more problems thant I thought.

Even if something is offensive, they can decline it. Sheesh. Every little thing is regulated to death.

jllcali
by Jane on Sep. 20, 2013 at 3:17 PM
It sounds like this was more a problem of a campus officer acting like a dick than the actual college admin taking issue. (couldn't watch the video though)
jllcali
by Jane on Sep. 20, 2013 at 3:21 PM
It's very understandable that the school would limit the areas where students could pass out materials. It could get very disruptive if students were allowed to distribute willy nilly, especially if they were very aggressive about it.
casseopeia
by Bronze Member on Sep. 20, 2013 at 3:21 PM

I think they have a designated area for pamphlets to be distributed to keep everyone and their brother from passing out papers that are largely unwanted and become litter.  Happens a lot on campuses.

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