Last Tuesday, on Constitution Day, student Robert Van Tuinen tried to hand out copies of the Constitution on the campus of Modesto Junior College in California. He discovered, however, that the document’s First Amendment does not apply at his school.

First, Van Tuinen was told by a campus police officer that he wasn’t following the rules for passing out literature.  When Van Tuinen questioned the officer about his First Amendment rights, he was referred to college administrator Christine Serrano.

She told Van Tuinen he could only pass out his literature in the designated free speech area, a tiny spot in front of the student center.  Serrano also said Van Tuinen would have to present his student ID, fill out an application and wait for the next available time slot

“Two people are on campus right now,” Serrano said, “so you’d have to wait until either the 20th, 27th, or you can go into October.”

Granted, Van Tuinen set out to test the free speech zones, and he made sure his confrontations with the security officer and the administrator were caught on video.   However, it does illustrate the point effectively: Modesto Community College, and schools with similar “free speech zones,” are violating the First Amendment.

Colleges and universities try to get around the Constitutional protection by arguing they have the right to impose content-neutral “time, place and manner” restrictions.  In the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1989 decision in Ward v. Rock Against Racism, the justices ruled that New York City officials had the power to issue reasonable guidelines for the sound amplification of a concert in a public park.

The court made clear, however, that any restriction must be minimally intrusive upon the freedom of expression.  Requiring a college student to fill out paperwork and wait days or even weeks to pass out pamphlets in a designated zone on campus clearly violates the court’s standard.

West Virginia University abandoned its free speech zones in 2002 after student complaints.  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) criticized Marshall University in 2011 for what it said was a policy that “prohibits a staggering amount of constitutionally protected speech.”

Marshall Chief of Staff Matt Turner told me, “We have not had an area designated as a free speech zone and don’t have a desire to do it.”  Turner added that Marshall is finalizing a change in the language of the student handbook that apparently raised the ire of FIRE.

FIRE reports that more than 60 percent of college and university campuses have policies that violate the free speech rights of their students.  How absurd.  Campuses should be a marketplace of ideas, in and out of the classroom.

There are time-tested limitations on speech, such as intent to incite unlawful conduct, but wise jurists have traditionally deferred to the First Amendment’s protection of speakers and writers, particularly those with unpopular ideas.

Perhaps someone in the Modesto Community College history department can provide the school’s administration with a much-needed lesson so that next Constitution Day, the First Amendment can be celebrated rather than ignored.

 

 

 

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Comments

  • D.P.

    Bottom Line: BHO and his Communist Flunkies have already proved to be the MOST DIVISIVE Administration EVER! Our Bystander/Entertainer in Chief is 100% backed by The Lame Stream Media! Thank God for Fox News and conservative radio commentators!

    You lemmings think this CLOWN is brilliant. Realistically, he's nothing more than an arrogant/narcissistic/insecure/lying/know nothing JERK! Fortunately, we are a resillent country, and hopefully it won't take generations to correct the damage he's done!!!!!

    • Shirley Mike

      To me you're a typical Mushhead meaning that you have been so programed to say what you say you don't know what you're saying. The only thing that's coming across is your unsubstantiated anger and the usual rhetoric of you people on the far left. I really wish you the best and I'll pray for you and the others like you who are also lost. While the Liberals continue murdering hundreds of thousands of babies they're also brain washing and destroying a whole generation of children. I am so sorry that we were not paying attention and that we did not stop your kind of thinking before it took root. Since this will not be published it's just another denial of free speech and I seriously doubt that you'll ever be able to read it.

  • vashti

    reasonable article Hoppy. i agree that many colleges deny free speech rights. as for the rest of the commentary on this message board you folks need to get a new schtick. youare all getting som predictable and boring

    • bulldog95

      You must be talking about those people that always blame everything on W. I agree, get a new schtick.

      • Hop'sHip

        i find your comment predictable but nonetheless exciting, mr. dog. i like your new schtick. does it come with a charrot?

        • bulldog95

          Speaking of predictable, arent you due for a "COAL IS WV!"

          • Hop'sHip

            would you settle for a "war on coal"? i'm working on a new schtick and you never hear that one referred to around here.

    • Hop'sHip

      thanks for the advise, vashti. i for one will try to make my future comments more exciting and creative by typing everything in lower case. take that, boring grammar nazis!

  • Jim N Charleston

    Who cares? Not our concern, it's Not real America.

  • Walsingham

    It's sounds like the guy should have called ahead to ask where and when would be the best place to hand the document out, rather than just showing up. Most public and private institutions and businesses, not just colleges, regulate time and place for speech and solicitation.

  • bulldog95

    I guess you missed the irony or just wanted to sound all high and mighty.

    And what exactly were you looking for with the occupy movement? Did you want more pictures or the feces being thrown at police, the "safe areas" for women so they wouldnt be raped? Did you want to see how much of a mess they left when they went home? Did you want to see the city's books when they had to pay all the overtime for police and sanitation? I will take a dirtbag with a camera anyday because thats when you catch people the way they really are, just like Obama when he thinks he is off mic when talking about Israel, Putin, and even Kanye West.

  • Concerned

    Let's be honest. Only reason this article was written was because he was handing out the constitution. I don't recall anything to this effect on metronews during the occupy wall street or the patriot protests. You know, when people were fighting for something important and just not being another dirtbag with a camera.

    • DonaldH

      Concerned,
      Is this meant in sarcasm?

  • FungoJoe

    The liberal leftist's assault on our Bill of Rights continues. The 1st Amendment, the 2nd Amendment, the 4th Amendment, the 5th Amendment and the 10th Amendment are all in danger of being water-downed or changed to benefit the leftists.
    Why do the liberal leftist dispise the Constitution so much?? It is the biggest impediment to their idea of BIG Government. The same BIG Government the forefathers warned us against. They will bypass the Constitution to install their progressive agenda. The American People will fight tooth and nail against that.

  • David

    Bazinga! TD hit Hoppy in his glass house.
    I can understand reasonable restrictions on the passing of literature on college campuses, as long as the purpose and affect of the restriction is to minimize disruptions to the educational processes allegedly occurring. The restrictions must be applied equally, no matter the information contained within the literature - as long as the content of the literature itself isn't unlawful.

  • Hop'sHip

    Reasonable commentary from Hoppy. The only time restriction of free expression is appropriate is when that free expression is being used to criticize (or name) those who have control over the organ of information.

  • Wowbagger

    Bush wasn't very good, he was just better than enviro wack job-capitalist All Gore and loose lips Kerry!

  • TD

    Agreed! I was looking for a column like this from you when George W. had designated free speech zones for protestors while he was president. People had to effectively self incarcerate to exercise their free speech when he came to town. I'm sure he and Cheney were laughing their butts off, can't you just hear them, "yea we got all the protesters a couple blocks away screaming their heads off but the good thing is we don't hear them and we don't have to see them". Big conveniently overlooked story by the media.

    • Hop'sHip

      Can't be true. Where is Q to explain that the main stream media was out to get Bush and is in the tank for Obama?

      • DonaldH

        Stop it!! Every one, including you, knows 90% of the media is in fact actively working to promote one set of political agendas while just as actively working to thwart agendas counter to their liberal view points....

        Don't bother saying anything more about-it-- you know I'm right about the media and about you....

        • Hop'sHip

          That's what I thought I was saying, DH. I was expecting Q to provide the orthodoxy on this, but you certainly are qualified to do so. I would only quibble with your figures. I thought it was 91.2% of the media that is in the tank for Obama.

          • DonaldH

            Good!! carry-on, then

          • Hop'sHip

            Thanks DH. I was just thinking that when I want to hear what respectable, good-smelling corporate leaders have to say, I only have a choice of three twenty-four hours a day networks to allow the expression of decent capitalist views, CNBC, Fox Business News and Bloomberg News. Yet we get a constant parade of smelly, filthy, vile union leaders parading across my screen expressing their communist views. If I have to listen to another stinky minimum wage worker whining about being unable to feed their kids without getting a government handout, my head will explode!

          • CaptainQ

            Wow! I just got back from a road trip and come here to find that I get thrown into this mess without even posting a single word! Amazing!

            The Main Stream Media, or for that matter the Right Wing Media, have NOTHING to do with the original subject of Hoppy's commentary today. Some of the MB regulars have been on my case about posting here too much, so I try to take a day off, and BOOM! I still get dragged into the discussion! Lincoln was right, you can't please all of the people all of the time.

            Thanks Hop'ship! I needed a good laugh this afternoon. There's no further need for me to elaborate, you did a great job without me, except you forgot to mention how 'in the tank' Fox News/Talk Radio was for Bush and in general, all things Republican. This is why I gave up on them a LONG time ago.

            DonaldH is correct, both stream of news media (MSM, RWM) has their own agendas to promote. True back then, true now.

          • Hop'sHip

            You're welcome, Q. Sorry to ruin your respite, but the subject of media bias came up and I just thought we would hear from our foremost media critic. Howard Kurtz wasn't available and neither was Howard Stern so I thought we should hear from you. Could you give us the correst percentage of left-wing media bias? Is it 90% or 91.2%? I was thinking if you weigh in pomposity, that might skew the results to the right.

        • J the C

          Donald, you ignorant fool! As a whole, the media is no more liberal than are you. Another right wing talking point for the lame.

          • DonaldH

            Well J and C, the great intellect--- if you believe that, then you are in the minority of Americans---

        • J the C

          Donald, you fool. Only the lame believe that right wing talking point. The media, as a whole, are no more liberal than you.

    • DonaldH

      TD, I took my wife and 9 year old son to see Bush one July 4th at our State House and the anti-Bush "Free Speech Zone" you claim Bush and Cheney had "set-up" was right at the entrance to where we entered the State House grounds. And yes I was there when that idiot started his anti-Bush rhetoric during the ceremony and was escorted out-- But before all that happened as we entered the grounds we were instructed one by one to remove all political paraphernalia-- including a "Friends of Coal" pin.. But back to those outside the entrance-- They were the most vile, dirty, and stinky vermin I've ever encountered in country-- I later was able to identify the type as those that would "Occupy Wall Street" -- the only thing more vile then their odor and appearance was their language and signs ---- Protest with dignity and respect and you'll see the "free speech zones" expand to the in front of any bully pulpit,,, that is Unless you are a radical 90 year old Granny with Tea-Bags hanging from your hat-- then you'll most likely will have set-up 10 blocks away....

      • TD

        DH, you come across as the quintessential angry old white guy who is driving people away from the Republican party. Wow, a dose of medical marijuana would do you a world of good.

        • DonaldH

          what is old?

          • Hop'sHip

            "old" is when you watch fox news for the content rather than to look at the girls with the short skirts delivering the content.

          • TD

            old, someone for whom the fun and light heartiness has gone out of life and the only thing left is anger at this group or that group. I probably agree with you on more issues than you think but it is the angry tone that is repulsive.

          • DonaldH

            I assumed we all laughed at one another,,, or at least we all laughed at Hop's --- I picture him as the Chinaman on Bonanza... whatshisname 'ole Hops Lib or something...

          • DonaldH

            Oh, and TD, sometimes there is no time for "fun and "light heartedness" when you're a grown-up--- Someone has to be in charge and run the "company" so to speak ----and the Country,,

          • Hop'sHip

            Another thing, DH. You're probably old if you make Bonanza references. And TD, don't be so hard on old DH. He knew how to show his kid a good time. Could you think of anything more fun for a 9 year old than to go to a Bush/Cheney political rally?

          • DonaldH

            ...and Hop Lib, Bonanza comes on ever Sunday.. I can't believe that Charles Engle dude had a gig before he had a little house built on a prairie..

            And it wasn't a political rally, it was a 4th a July Celebration -- a celebration I'm sure that's just as vile to you as Holy Water is to a vampire.

    • Shadow

      I don't think you know the difference between free speech and obstructionism. Obstructionism is when you try to outshout your opponent's free speech rights and you are supporting it. It you are going to discuss an issue, speech should be in a serial manner, not parallel.

    • bulldog95

      Oh yes, only Bush ever did stuff like this. It must be nice in your world or little bubble. Democrats do this all the time too. All the people that to protest get zoned away toi an area that might hold around 100 people. The dems do it almost every year at their conventions. I am sure you recall the man that was standing in his zone with the rifle and so many people got all in an uproar. Someone let it slip that it didnt matter because he was in the protest zone no where near the main event.

      How about you get a new argument other than W.

      • TD

        none needed, the damage "W" inflicted will hurt the country for decades to come and people like myself will make damn sure the rest don't forget it.

        • bulldog95

          And yet another dodge on the issue of restricting free speech. You start by saying W did this and when I point out the O has done it, you blame W yet again. But then again I guess thats all you can do when one points out hypocritical behavior. You could have said yes, O has done it too, so lets move on. But no, you bob, weave, and dodge.

          Before I forget, I bet you were all in a tizzy when tea party groups were denied permits to assemble in various parts of the country? Or better yet, I bet you were not all worked up because free speech is only free speech when its the along the same line as your own.

          • DonaldH

            Dog95
            The left sees nothing wrong with their past or present political tactics-- as I would often tell them during the Bush years about their tactics used against Bush--- "Don't cry foul when your guy is in office and the shoe is on the other foot and the same tactics is used on them"--- well, here we are.. both sides do it now..

      • leroy jethro gibbs

        watch out , i will throw a shoe at you

    • Hop'sHip

      TD: When the drafters of the Constitution completed their work, they had in mind who and what was covered by the provisions of their document and who would be qualified to interpret the meaning of their words. Please be advised that they weren't thinking of the likes of you. Just like with the Bible, only those who pass a certain "smell" test are eligible to interpret this most revered of documents.

      • DonaldH

        That's right and Harry Reid was on the Senate Floor just today saying the Cruz play to force a vote on ObammerCare smells of the "Tea Party"-- and we all know if you smell like "Tea" your political opinion hasn't a place in their new "fundamentally changed" America...

    • Shirley Mike

      this is so typical of California communist California where your brain washing our children to useing them and turning them into people who can't even carry on a full conversation. And here is a young man trying to establish his constitutional right to free speech. Free speech does not require anyone's permission. He had every right to hand out copies of our Constitution on Constitution Day. Whoever that officer Was and I do Wish I had his name could you please give me his name. He obviously does not understand tHe Constitution of the United States of America.