Officials at a public university in Oregon threatened to call the police on students handing out the U.S. Constitution on campus because they refused to do so in the school’s “free speech area.”
According to Campus Reform, which obtained video of the incident, the group of four students were distributing copies of the Constitution out last Tuesday when they were confronted by administrators at Southern Oregon University.
Footage of the extensive encounter depicts multiple college administrators tell the students that passing out Constitutions in the public area is against school policy and not allowed.
“I would very much like you to leave, if you would, please, because the students have the right to be able to come by here without you guys, you know, invading their space and asking them to do something,” Tim Robitz, director of university housing, told the students.
“We have our free speech zone. I understand that you may not like it, but that’s where it is,” Allyson Beck, the school’s family housing coordinator, also told the students.
The students, affiliated with the group Students for Concealed Carry, refused to comply with the instructions, contending they are unconstitutional.
“Thank you for coming down here and explaining to us the unconstitutional policies here on campus, but we’re not going to move,” one of the students told an administrator.
At multiple points in the video, students unsuccessfully attempted to explain to the officials that because they were on public property, they were legally entitled to protections provided by the First Amendment.
Campus police never appeared to arrive at the scene and the group never complied with the orders to halt their activities.
Group member Stephanie Keaveney later told Campus Reform that the group “encountered wild accusations” because they were pro-gun.
“Administrators accused us of causing an immediate panic for the safety of students in the face of gun violence, or the promotion of such,” she said.
David Hacker, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, told Campus Reform school administrators were legally wrong.
“Caging students in censorship zones flies in the face of the First Amendment and undermines the reason for education,” he said. “Colleges and universities are and should be the marketplace of ideas, and the Constitution protects the speech rights of everyone, not just groups or students that a few university officials personally choose.”
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