Friday, September 26, 2014

Here We Go Again: Students Prohibited From Passing Out Constitutions on Constitution Day

Once again, university officials have shown how progressive and tolerant they are by forcing Young Americans for Freedom at Pennsylvania State University to remove its table from a so-called “free speech zone.”

The YAF activists’ crime? Handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day, Sept. 17.

Sound familiar? It should. Last year, Robert Van Tuinen, an Army vet and student at Modesto Junior College, was shut down passing out copies of The Heritage Foundation’s “Guide to the Constitution.” He sued his college and it eventually settled the lawsuit, paying him $50,000.

This year, it was Penn State’s turn to continue the tradition of violating the Constitution on Constitution Day. But why? Lawyers for public universities should know that shutting down speech exposes them to First Amendment lawsuits. Furthermore, passing out copies of the Constitution performs a valuable educational service that many universities don’t perform on their own. If anything, Penn State should be thanking Jolie Davis and the other PSU YAF student activists.

Penn State officials offered no justifiable reason for shutting down the activists. One university administrator suggested Penn State has a neutral policy on the books, prohibiting all tables in the free speech zone. Even if this were true, it still might fall afoul of the First Amendment. But the as one student noted: “We’ve seen people’s tables out here all the time!” In other words, whatever the formal policy on the Penn State books, the university traditionally allows student organizations to have tables.

In fact, the YAF chapter at Penn State had placed a table at this exact spot before without any reported harassment from school authorities, but this time they handed out more than Constitutions – they included information about Penn State’s restrictive speech code. This is probably the real reason for the targeting. But Penn State officials might want to do some work on that speech code. They also might want to avail themselves of one of the copies of the Constitution the activists were handing out—or, better yet, the newly revamped Heritage Guide to the Constitution.

Then they need to read it and learn it and come to understand it. If they do, we won’t see them inhibiting Constitution Day events anymore.



Anonymous said...

Progressives hate the US Constitution, they would change it to the eu model if possible.


Anonymous said...

The EU doesn't yet have a Constitution (because the 28 member states can't agree on one) - or is that what you mean by a "model"?

Bird of Paradise said...

Frankly someone need to take these leftists adminastators and sue their pants off shove their COMMUNISTS MANIFESTO up their A** kick their sorry backsides out of america

Anonymous said...

This cited article and post here doesn't seem to match the facts.

The encounter with the head of the building in which the group has a table and is passing out the booklets comes out and says "you can continue to pass out your literature - you just can't have a table set up in this area."

It is the TABLE - not the literature - that is the issue. The Penn State faculty member says they can stay where they are and hand out their literature or they can move to a patio in back of the building where they can hand out literature and set up their table. The Penn State rep says that normally the area in the back needs to be reserved in advance, but if there is an open space at that moment, they can set up in the open space.

Penn State and its representatives did nothing wrong here. The University did not restrict the disbursing of the literature. They did not tell them they could not hand out the literature at the very spot upon which they were standing.

The issue is the TABLE the group wanted to set up.

You can watch the video of the encounter here:

Anonymous said...

The concept of a 'free speech zone' is repugnant as it suggests that your right to free speech is limited to a certain place.
This is a public university campus - if the whole school is not a free speech zone we have real problems.

Jerry Doctor said...

Anon (2:29) - This is covered in the article, along with the fact that the enforcement of the "rule" is, at best, selective.

Anon (5:33) - It isn't and we do.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Doctor,

The YAF tried to make the claim that they had "seen people out there with tables all the time" to which the university representative said "we don't allow student groups out here."

Whether it is selective enforcement is debatable but the students were not denied the ability to distribute the literature.

As for the whole campus being a "free speech zone," do you really want people to be able to barge into a dorm room on the basis of "free speech?" Do you want classrooms disrupted because people are protesting or handing out literature while the rest of the students are paying money for an education? Do you want talks by invited speakers disrupted due to "free speech?" Do you want the library to become a cacophony of competing voices as people are trying to study?

Many colleges have free speech zones that are expansive and done well. Some have zones that are too restrictive.

No matter what, this case is not about the restricting of people handing out the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

Yes, as usual Jay-Ray is trying to exaggerate a situation for effect - to more than imply yet another leftist conspiracy!

Anonymous said...

I apologize if I was obtuse ANON 4:04, as you stated there is no eu constitution and likely never will be so the "model" is to continually debate while they do as they wish.


stinky said...

No matter what, this case is not about the restricting of people handing out the Constitution.

Yes, it is, your irrelevant bombast notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...


Don't let facts get in your way.

The students were not denied the right to hand out the Constitution at the time they wanted and the place they wanted.

Uno Hu said...

Unless one has independent first-hand knowledge of what happened, and who was denied the opportunity to pass out what, all of us are limited to reacting and forming opinions based on what we read or are told.

If - let me repeat that - IF the University denied a student group the right to pass out either copies of the U.S. Constitution or of flyers criticizing a University policy, I hope (1) the students sue, and (2) win a bundle, and (3) get a multiplier on that bundle for punitive damages because the U. knew or should have known their actions were violating the students' rights.

Anonymous said...

Unless one has independent first-hand knowledge of what happened, and who was denied the opportunity to pass out what, all of us are limited to reacting and forming opinions based on what we read or are told.

Or you can form your own opinion as the YAF filmed the encounter:

stinky said...

His naivete is wilful, anon 4:44. Reason is of no avail.

Go Away Bird said...

Totaly defund these places