Teachable Moments: Chula Vista campus charged with violating student rights
May 18, 2010
San Diego News Network
The following press release came in Friday from the American Civil Liberties Union via Californians Aware . CalAware is a resource center supporting open government, First Amendment rights, free speech, an active press, and compliance with the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act.
ACLU, FIRE: Public College Still Abridging Speech
Southwestern College limits free expression on its San Diego campus to a single "free speech patio" and has proposed a new policy that unconstitutionally restricts expression, according to letters released yesterday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego & Imperial Counties. The deadline for input on the new policy was 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 the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. "The college needs to repeal its existing policy now and promptly adopt valid policies to avoid litigation."
Southwestern College  is located in Chula Vista and was established in 1961. It is one of 112 public community colleges in California and serves about 18,000 students.
A May 13 editorial  in Southwestern College's student newspaper, The Southwestern Sun, said student protesters had been "relegated to a postage-stamp-size patio."