Victory at San Francisco State, But Serious Concerns Remain
September 9, 2008
by Luke Sheahan
Yesterday, I reported about the Outdoor Event Request Form policy at San Francisco State University (SFSU) barring all student groups from holding outdoor events. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) wrote to SFSU on behalf of the College Republicans demanding that SFSU respect its students' First Amendment rights and change the policy. We are happy to report that J.E. Saffold, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, promptly responded to ADF's letter and retracted the ban on outdoor events.
That said, we are a little irked at Saffold's dishonesty. Saffold claims that groups were never barred from holding events even though the old policy clearly stated that the whole events reservation process had been indefinitely postponed. The policy read in whole:
The Outdoor Reservation Request Process for Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 events has been postponed until further notice per University Administration. The postponement will be in effect until completion of a review of Time, Place, and Manner policies by a task force with final recommendations subject to Presidential approval by the President's Cabinet. It is the intent that the review will be completed in early summer. We apologize for any inconvenience.
This raises some serious questions. If SFSU really meant it only intended to ban amplified sound, why didn't it say that in the policy above? If amplified sound was prohibited for a legitimate reason, why the sudden reversal as soon as SFSU received ADF's letter threatening litigation if the policy was not changed? Saffold claims that the policy change was planned to allow for the events this week, but why then did SFSU first tell the College Republicans that they couldn't hold their event and only now, as Saffold says in her letter, inform them that they could hold their event? It is dubious whether such a policy change was ever planned.
At the end of her letter, Saffold states,
San Francisco State University has a long history of activism and support of freedom of speech. We continue to be a campus that embraces the free exchange of ideas.
I almost choked on my morning crumpet. As I discussed yesterday, SFSU was recently sued in federal court for an egregious violation of these very same College Republicans' First Amendment right to protest and ordered by a federal judge to change the offending policies. Saffold and her ilk at SFSU and across the country need to understand that mere rhetorical appeal to free speech is not enough, they must truly respect it with their policies and with their actions. The Constitution allows for nothing less.