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

2010 05 07 Letter on Revised Policy.pdf

March 24, 2010 ACLU Letter

2010 03 24 Letter to Task Force Final.pdf