Many of America’s college campuses – especially in the deep blue state of California – are notoriously unhospitable to those espousing any conservative values. Apparently, existing in such a cloistered environment has given some administrators the idea that alternative viewpoints may be silenced.
Fortunately for supporters of the First Amendment, at least one college learned an important – and costly – lesson about freedom of speech from a student whose exercise of that liberty was curtailed last year.
When Robert Van Tuinen showed up at Modesto Junior College on National Constitution Day to hand out copies of the document, he was informed that such activity violated school policy. A campus police officer approached the Army veteran and, in an exchange caught on video, told him that “there are rules” against free speech.
“What are the rules?” Van Tuinen asked. “Why are the rules tied to my free speech?”
The student continued by explaining he wanted to set up a pro-liberty organization on campus, to which the officer informed him he would have to “go through the rigmarole” of complying with the college’s registration policies. Furthermore, the school apparently limited certain speech, including the distribution of the U.S. Constitution, to a small plot of campus land students had to apply for the right to use.
“They were maintaining an unconstitutional speech code,” the student said in an interview with Fox News. The incident led him to seek monetary damages; and in a victory for both Van Tuinen and the First Amendment, the school agreed to pay a $50,000 settlement. More importantly for future students, the college is also amending its restrictive speech code.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education joined forces with the student in presenting his case to the federal court of California’s Eastern District.
President Greg Lukianoff said the organization is “very pleased” that the student and school “have reached this settlement and that Modesto Junior College students will now be able to exercise their First Amendment rights across campus.”
While this individual win is good news, patriots must remain vigilant in exposing speech police across the nation to maintain our freedom for future generations.