by Gina Cassini | Top Right News
Oops…they did it again.
Back in February Top Right News reported on a college in Modesto, CA which had banned a student from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution — and it cost them a pretty penny, $50,000 in a legal settlement after he sued.
One would think colleges would embrace freedom of speech — not suppress it.
But apparently the lesson was not learned by institutions of “higher learning”. Because now two students are suing the University of Hawaii for violating their First Amendment rights after an administrator prevented them from distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution — demonstrating a frightening lack of knowledge about the very legal document they were attempting to censor.
Students Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone, members of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at UH-Hilo, were prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution at a recruitment event in January. A week later, they were again informed by a censorship-minded administrator that their First Amendment-protected activities were in violation of school policy.
The students were told that they could only distribute literature from within UH-Hilo’s “free speech zone,” a small, muddy, frequently-flooded area on the edge of campus.
Above: U of H’s “free speech zone” — more like a swamp
Administrators further clarified their level of respect for students’ free speech rights, making comments like, “This isn’t really the ’60s anymore,” and “people can’t really protest like that anymore,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The First Amendment has not been modified since the 1960s, however, and robustly protects the rights of students at public universities to hold non-disruptive protests, speak their mind and distribute literature.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education 59 percent of colleges and universities have policies in place that “clearly and substantially restrict free speech.”
Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE, could not immediately be reached for comment, but wrote in a statement that UH’s action were “absolutely unacceptable.”
Burch and Vizzone’s lawsuit is being handled by Davis Wright Tremaine, the same law firm that represented the Modesto student. The suit asks for injunctive relief, and for the university to pay the students’ attorney fees