There is never a shortage of stories about attacks on free speech on the American college campus. Here is one which hits close to home at the College of DuPage (COD), a community college in the western suburbs of Chicago.
On an October school day outside one of the school’s entrances, COD student Joe Enders and another student were handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution and talking to fellow students about starting a Turning Point USA student group. Turning Point USA is a non-partisan student organization dedicated to promoting the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government. The students were soon confronted by a police officer who told them they could not solicit without a permit from the school. The students were not selling anything and asked how that could be considered soliciting to which the officer responded that they were “soliciting opinions.” The officer told the students to go see the COD’s Student Life Services and threatened to arrest them if they refused to leave.
The Alliance Defending Freedom reached out to the school board of COD and outlined the threats to First Amendment rights that were in the campus code. To their great credit, the COD board expressed their willingness to revise their policies and officially did so in March. The revised policies respect the constitutional freedoms of students by allowing them to pass out literature in outdoor areas of campus without prior permission, as the old policies required.
On March 17, Mauck & Baker attorney Noel Sterett spoke at the COD Turning Point USA group of about 20 students on the recent attacks on free speech in the campus setting.
Though the College of DuPage has made great progress, the campus landscape in Illinois is far from free. In fact, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has rated the speech policies of the following Illinois campuses their worst rating on the free speech scale: Chicago State, Governors State, Northeastern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois (both at Carbondale and Edwardsville), University of Illinois of Chicago and Springfield, and Western Illinois.
In the summer of 2014, Mauck & Baker filed suit against Waubonsee Community College after the college denied the request of two men to return to campus to hand out their flyers from behind a table—as they had done in years past. The College’s denial letter even candidly conceded that the denial was both absolute and based on the viewpoint our clients sought to share. In his opinion in favor of the plaintiff, the U.S. District Judge declared this act to be “purposeful suppression of speech.”
Mauck & Baker will continue to fight for free speech on and off campus. For as Benjamin Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
Originally published at MauckBaker.com.