A police officer on a public university campus in Texas stopped a conservative campus group from recruiting members to their organization, telling them that they needed to obtain explicit permission from the dean's office in order to ask for signatures on their petition in the public space.
According to college news website Campus Reform, students with the Network of Enlightened Women were advocating for gun rights on campus when University of Texas, Dallas, officer Tad Palmer approached them.
“You, listen to what I’m saying,” Officer Tad Palmer said. “You have to get permission. Either get permission or you can be criminally trespassed.”
The students told the officer that they had obtained permission from a campus safety official, in addition to someone in the student life department. Palmer, however, said they needed written permission, adding to them that the school is a "state university, it's private."
At one point, the officer blocked another student from talking with the group. That student later told Campus Reform she would have joined them in their demonstration had she not had class.
The university police's chief later told Campus Reform that the officer was responding to a "complaint" when he "took the action." An official police report, however, was never taken.
Later when the students met with associate dean of students Kim Winkler, they were again told they needed specific permission from the dean to circulate a petition. She also said that the students were prohibited on the public campus from initiating conversations with their peers.
The university did not respond to multiple requests from Campus Reform for comment.
Online, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education says in their guide to free speech on campus that individuals are guaranteed their First Amendment rights on public campuses.
"The educational experience at a public university enjoys a constitutional uniqueness precisely because it is suited and intended to be a "free marketplace of ideas." Traditionally, there have been few other places in American society where ideas are exchanged and debates engaged in as freely and as vigorously as on the campuses of our public universities. Arguments that attempt to end that tradition by citing those constitutional principles that apply to our nation"s children are constitutionally flawed, intellectually dishonest, and terribly demeaning to the young adults of our colleges and universities," the organization says on its website.
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