FREE SPEECH — Southwestern College (SWC) 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 of San Diego & Imperial Counties. The
deadline for input on the new policy is tomorrow, 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 ACLU of San Diego & Imperial
Counties. “The college needs to repeal its existing policy now and
promptly adopt valid policies to avoid litigation.”