A California college student says his First Amendment rights were violated on Tuesday, “Constitution Day,” when officials at Modesto Junior College forbid him from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution outside the student center.
In a video posted on YouTube, college police and administrators can be seen ordering Robert Van Tuinen to stop passing out Constitution pamphlets. He claims it took less than 10 minutes for a campus police officer to arrive and tell him that anything he passed out on campus needed to be registered with the Student Development office.
Van Tuinen was informed that he was permitted to relocate in the college’s “free speech zone” — but he would have to schedule his act of free speech ahead of time.
The student tried to make his case that the policy infringed on his freedom of speech, but he was unsuccessful.
“Don’t I have free speech, sir?” the student asks, to which the officer replies he can either go willingly or they can remove him.
Van Tuinen later tells the officer that he is trying to start a chapter of Young Americans for Liberty on campus and is attempting to generate interest. However, the campus police officer was unmoved and again told him that “as a student on campus passing out anything whatsoever, you have to have permission through the Student Development office.”
Watch the video of the incident below:
In a letter to Modesto Junior College, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) called on the college to remove the controversial policy that limits free speech on campus.
“The video of Modesto Junior College police and administrators stubbornly denying a public college student’s right to freely pass out pamphlets to fellow students—copies of the Constitution, no less!—should send a chill down the spine of every American,” FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley said. “Worse, FIRE’s research shows that Modesto Junior College is hardly alone in its fear of free speech. In fact, one in six of America’s 400 largest and most prestigious colleges have ‘free speech zones’ limiting where speech can take place. This video brings to life the deeply depressing reality of the climate for free speech on campus.”