Southwestern College’s Revised Free Speech Policy Still Presents Serious Constitutional Problems

SAN DIEGO – Southwestern College (SWC) limits free expression on its California campus to a single “free speech patio” and has proposed a new policy that unconstitutionally restricts expression, according to letters released today by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties. The deadline for input on the new policy is this Saturday, May 15.

The new proposals embrace the idea that the campus is largely a public forum for speech. However, as detailed in the letters sent by ACLU and FIRE, the proposals still present serious constitutional problems:
– They would authorize unconstitutional censorship of certain speech and illegally compel speakers to disclaim authority to speak for the college whenever they mention the college’s name.
– They would improperly require advance registration for demonstrations and events that have no impact on campus traffic or security.
– Even if registration is appropriate in some cases, they would require registration too far in advance and fail to allow for spontaneous demonstrations in response to breaking events.
– Finally, they would wrongly require persons distributing literature to be responsible for cleaning up litter caused by others.

“These proposals are a step forward, but if adopted as written, they would still violate the fundamental right to freedom of speech,” said David Blair-Loy, legal director for ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The college needs to repeal its existing policy now and promptly adopt valid policies to avoid litigation.”


May 7, 2010 ACLU Letter

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