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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

MJC student speaks out on school’s violation of rights

Sept. 17, 2013, Modesto Junior College (MJC) officials unknowingly violated a student’s First Amendment Rights, sparking a battle that eventually headed to federal court. It began when three students, one of which was Robert Van Tuinen, passed out copies of the Constitution in honor of Constitution Day.
The students were approached by campus officers, who told them they could not pass out the documents on campus without permission. With this, the Huffington Post has MJC listed as one of the top 10 worst offenders of free speech in 2014.
MJC told Van Tuinen, a campus coordinator for Students for Liberty, that he must register his event at least five days in advance in a “free speech area.”
“FIRE wrote to MJC President Jill Stearns on September 19, 2013, pointing out that MJC’s actions were blatantly unconstitutional and calling on the school to immediately rescind its policies,” FIRE’s (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) website says. “When MJC did not do so, FIRE worked with Van Tuinen and the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine to coordinate a lawsuit that was filed in federal court on October 10, 2013.”
Community colleges and universities must abide by free speech rules. MJC seemed to have a different set of rules, which Van Tuinen said was odd.
“To be entirely honest, I was stunned that they would blatantly and so unflinchingly enforce these rules in the face of the very document that guarantees our right to pass out any documents and engage in any topic that we desire,” Van Tuinen said. He realized he then had to take action – action that did not necessarily need to be legal.
Van Tuinen reached out to FIRE in hopes of avoiding court. MJC and Yosemite Community College District (YCCD) acted as though they were victims and refused to help. So Van Tuinen and FIRE moved forward with legal action.
While MJC and YCCD made vigorous efforts to battle Van Tuinen and his colleagues, he had many supporters behind him.
“A professor and one that would become a professor showed the most support,” Van Tuinen said. “I was happy and excited to see that others were willing [to] demand our rights on campus.”
Van Tuinen encourages California State University, Stanislaus students to look up free speech codes. He says to be sure to look at fire.org to see how students are protected and how they are not.
“I encourage your readers to look into the speech codes on campus,” Van Tuinen said. “I encourage you to stand up for speech. Fight for what you know is right regardless of those that want to stop you.”

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MJC student speaks out on school’s violation of rights