The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
Students walk around the Princeton University campus in New Jersey, November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz Students walk around the Princeton University campus in New Jersey, November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz  

2013′s dumbest campus free speech cases

Photo of Robert Shibley
Robert Shibley
Senior Vice President, FIRE

Are you ready for a career change? Think the challenging field of college administration might be your ticket to exciting, high-paying employment? If so, first answer these questions: Do you believe in magic? Are you terrified of letters, or jokes, or art? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, please do yourself and everyone else a favor and stay out of college administration. If you don’t, you might might find yourself listed in a future edition of the below: the year’s dumbest campus free speech cases.

Modesto Junior College Believes in Magic Words: This California institution made national news earlier this year when it stopped a student from passing out U.S. Constitutions on Constitution Day, because it has apparently never heard the phrase “public relations disaster,” or, for that matter, “lawsuit.” What made the case one of the most absurd of the year, though, was the college bureaucrat caught on tape justifying the rules to student Robert Van Tuinen by saying the phrase “time, place, and manner” over and over as if she were the priest from The Exorcist chanting “the power of Christ compels you!” Alas for Modesto (and fortunately for America), misusing a phrase from a 1989 Supreme Court case does not actually exorcise the First Amendment from a public college campus. Thankfully, Modesto has suspended its rules while working on settling a lawsuit over the incident.

Dixie State Thinks it Owns the Alphabet: Dixie State University in Utah (yep, Utah) appears to be under the impression that the Constitution grants college bureaucrats in St. George, Utah, authority over what system of writing its students can use. Dixie State has been spending time and taxpayer money denying a group of students the ability to name their student club the “Phi Beta Pi Society” by banning the use of Greek letters in organization names. Dixie State is dead set against having fraternities or sororities on campus because their presence would supposedly lead the public to believe that Dixie State is a “party school.” Roman letters are apparently fine unless they spell out Greek letters like Phi Beta Pi. With this level of “logic” in evidence, it’s pretty clear that looking like a “party school” is not this crew’s biggest problem.