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Speak your piece.

DO YOU REMEMBER the first person to greet you when you went to college? Was it a resident assistant, or perhaps an orientation guide? Whomever it was, chances are he or she was an employee of the Student Life Office, which ideally is designed to enhance your outside-of-the-classroom college experience. Every college or university has dedicated staff to this office to help with campus organizations, housing, events, and/or orientation. The mission is ideally well intentioned, but recent incidents have led me to question the actions of these offices.

On May 3, Jeff Lyons wanted to distribute pocket-sized copies of the Constitution on his campus at Bunker Hill Community College in Massachusetts. As a Navy veteran, he takes his civil liberties very seriously and, with a nation that is so divided, he thought it was time to spread a message based upon constitutional rights and principles.

When a campus security officer approached Lyons and his fellow Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) members, they did not take it lightly. "You need to move to the bridge," the officer told the Bunker Hill students. Lyons and his friends continued to distribute copies of the Constitution and refused to let their right to free speech be stifled. The following week, the students received a formal notice from the college claiming that they violated the Code of Conduct.

Both the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notified the college about their unconstitutional speech codes and ordered it to change the codes or expect litigation in their near future.

Lyons is not the sole student to face these unruly policies enforced by politicized administrators. At Los Angeles (Calif.) Pierce Community College, YAL student Kevin Shaw was distributing pocket Constitutions to gamer support for his club to become recognized officially by the college. Because Shaw was not inside the free speech area, he was asked to leave campus unless he obtained a permit from the administration.

Interestingly enough, Los Angeles Pierce College publishes its free speech regulations on the back of the permit, but the only way to know that is by obtaining a permit in the first place at the Student Life Office--a prime example of how out of touch and dysfunctional these offices dedicated to enhancing the student experience have become. Yet, out-of-touch administrators are not a new fad sweeping college campuses. What has developed is the heightened malevolence from campus leaders towards the First Amendment.

At Michigan's Kellogg Community College, three YAL students were arrested simply for asking students questions that "rural students may not know how to say no to ... because they grew up without Internet." The YAL people were asking students if they wanted a copy of the Constitution and if they liked liberty. Administrators from the Student Life Office told the students that, if they wanted to engage in this type of activity, they would need permission from the college and would need to be inside the designated "free speech zone."

The students told the administration that they would not go to the free speech zone because Kellogg Community College is a public college, and therefore, the entire campus is a free speech zone. Administrators then threatened students with arrest. The students stood their ground, unaffected by the threats. The students then were hauled off campus and spent the night in jail. Since then, the students have filed a civil lawsuit in Federal court.

These lawsuits are providing real results for free speech across college campuses, and Young Americans for Liberty is leading the fight by restoring rights to more than 544,000 students nationwide.

Last fall, Brittany Mirelez won her lawsuit against Maricopa County (Ariz.) Community College, home to 250,000 students. Brittany was told by bureaucrats that she needed to obtain a permit before using the university's designated free speech zone. Got that?--not only was she told she had to be inside the free speech zone, but she had to first obtain permission from the university Student Life Office to use the free speech zone.

A common trend in all of these instances of egregious behavior on the part of the public colleges is the Student Life Office. Once the epicenter for guidance and assistance for students, this office has become the ubiquitous roadblock for free speech on many campuses. What we need is for the Student Life Offices to remember their original purpose, which is enhancing students' campus experience and helping to provide innovative events on campus, and move away from a custodial obligation.

Universities are meant to be a bastion of free speech, where students engage in unfettered free expression. This dangerous move towards a nanny-state on college campuses facilitated through Student Life Offices does nothing but shield students from the real world and differing viewpoints that they will face post-graduation.

Cliff Maloney Jr. is president of Young Americans for Liberty, Arlington, Va.. This column was adapted from an editorial appearing on the political website The Hill.
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Title Annotation:LAW & JUSTICE
Author:Maloney, Cliff, Jr.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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