Lawsuits Challenge Colleges That Take An Axe To Free Speech


The LA Times reports that Citrus College student, Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle, pictured below, has been compelled to sue his college over their free speech zones. Sinapi-Riddle is a Libertarian who is an ardent supporter of free speech.

Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle

He launched a petition effort in the fall to protest NSA spying when an administrator told him he stepped outside the designated free speech zone. The college requires all petitioning, pamphlet-disbursements and other free speech activities take place within a small, restrictive “free speech area.”

“It was shocking to me that there could be so much hostility about me talking to another student peacefully about government spying,” said Sinapi-Riddle, 20. “My vision of college was to express what I think.”

It’s shocking to all of us who went to college under the same premise. If we don’t have free speech on college campuses, where do we have it?

On Tuesday, he filed a lawsuit against the Citrus Community College District, joining students in Iowa, Ohio and Illinois in what is thought to be the first coordinated legal attack on free speech restrictions in higher education.

Sinapi-Riddle is challenging Citrus’ free-speech area and their anti-harassment policy as overly broad with a way-too-complex approval process.

The college has already been sued over free speech zones in 2003 and eliminated them only to bring them back last year, knowing they were unconstitutional.

They might be doing this in light of the DOJ and DOE support for restrictions of free speech. The DOJ/DOE have dealt mostly with sexual and racial harassment but their mandates are very broad and the message is clear – they are taking an axe to the First Amendment.

In 2011, the DOE (Department of Education) obliterated due process rights for students accused of sexual harassment on college campuses. They have now mandated such broad speech codes in relation to sexual harassment that it is impossible to not violate them.

Offensive conduct, which includes speech, does not have to meet any standard of reasonableness. It simply has to be unwelcome conduct for any reason.

A letter from the DOJ/DOE sent in May of 2013 to the University of Montana mandated they micromanage every minute aspect of harassment policies and their implementation.

It reached beyond the one university and made all universities fully responsible for any possible case of harassment. They even make the institutions of higher learning responsible for off-campus harassment.

Is this still America one must wonder. The totalitarians keep coming back. They are relentless.

FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has coordinated the lawsuits against against four universities because of these First Amendment violations.

FIRE is suing Ohio University, Iowa State University, Chicago State University, and Citrus College (Calif.) for their restrictive policies on free speech.

“Unconstitutional campus speech codes have been a national scandal for decades. But today, 25 years after the first of the modern generation of speech codes was defeated in court, 58 percent of public campuses still hold onto shockingly illiberal codes,” said FIRE president Greg Lukianoff. “For 15 years, FIRE has fought for free speech on campus using public awareness as our main weapon, but more is needed. Today, we announce the launch of the Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, an expansive new campaign to eliminate speech codes nationwide. We have already coordinated two lawsuits in the past nine months, and this morning we brought four more. The lawsuits will continue until campuses understand that time is finally up for unconstitutional speech codes in academia.”

Other lawsuits involve censored T-shirts, bogus trademark infringements, and cyberbullying. Read about the other lawsuits on the link.