Four students enrolled at Southern Oregon University (SOU) were threatened with arrest last Tuesday for passing out subversive documents. According to Campus Reform, “university officials threatened to call the police and [take] disciplinary action against students” in question.
So what were the students handing out that got the administration’s hackles up? Copies of the U.S. Constitution. The group was also collecting signatures to end the university’s restrictive speech policies, which limit free speech to an area that equals less than 1% of campus.
In a video of the incident obtained by Campus Reform, Director of University Housing Tim Robitz can be heard telling the troublemakers:
I would very much like you to leave, if you would, please, because the students have the right to be able to come by here without you guys, you know, invading their space and asking them to do something.
Family Housing Coordinator Allyson Beck was also captured in the video advising:
We have our free speech zone. I understand that you may not like it, but that’s where it is.
[The video may be viewed at this page.]
The real flashpoint for the standoff may have been the group’s extracurricular pursuits. All four students are affiliated with Students for Concealed Carry (SCC), a nonpartisan student organization that advocates for concealed carry rights on college campuses.
Campus Reform reached out for comments from David Hacker, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, who said:
Caging students in censorship zones flies in the face of the First Amendment and undermines the reason for education. Colleges and universities are and should be the marketplace of ideas, and the Constitution protects the speech rights of everyone, not just groups or students that a few university officials personally choose.
As for Robitz’s comment about students having “the right to be able to come by here without you guys, you know, invading their space and asking them to do something,” it seems that the university was less concerned about that right in 2011. According to the website The Dove, members of the Occupy movement staged a recruitment drive on campus in October of that year.
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