5 ways to fight for your rights on campus.

If you are an avid reader of Polliterate, then you know Universities aren’t always the most respectful towards student’s rights on their campus. It’s something that needs to be fought for instead of passively complaining, by requiring students to stand up and speak out. Here are 5 ways you as a student can become proactive at your college.

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Photo from thefire.org

1. Volunteer for organizations that will help you

Foundation for Individual Rights on Campus, or FIRE, is an excellent organization focusing on giving legal and monetary support for students who have been bullied by school administrations. FIRE provides countless ways to become involved including a free conference in the summer, supplies and resources to help spread freedom, internships, and an application to submit a case to their legal team if your school has completely disregarded your rights.

On a more local level, the Goldwater Institute in downtown Phoenix also has show enthusiastic cooperation with students in the past. As a non-profit and think tank in Arizona, it looks after misuse of power within the government, and college campuses as well.

2. Write for your student publication

One of the best ways to spread ideas is to utilize the press as a means for communication. Fed up with Free Speech Zones on campus? Write about it! Is the University refusing to allow a political figure to come and speak? Write about it! Or how about if the school is threatening to shut down a club on campus? Write about it! And once you’re done writing about it, consider submitting your article to a local newspaper, or alerting the city’s TV station about the story to get further coverage.  Even if you’re not a journalism major, learning how to construct a story is a skill that can be picked up on relatively quickly. Just remember: always be fair. Resist the temptation to paint the administration in a bad light to win over sympathy. Showing both sides of the story will give the article both more credibility and wins over moderates to your side. Don’t restrict information or speech yourself.

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Two girls at the Freedom of Speech Wall outside the MU. Picture from Carlos Alfrado CR President

3. Create a Free Speech Wall.

This is a great way to interact students, by creating a free-flowing of ideas on the campus.It may take some time and energy to make a very well-crafted speech wall, but the return of ideas on the wall is worth it. Earlier this year in September, the College Republicans club at ASU created a free speech wall right in front of the MU. Several students came to write everything from religious and political opinions, to drawings of cats and squirrels. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the students write, but the idea that they were allowed to express it.

If you need help learning how to create a wall, this is an excellent tutorial

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ASU History Professor Donald Critchlow. Picture from ASU directory.

4.  Align yourself with Supportive Faculty.

Having professors or administrators as allies is a valuable tool in the future when things might become heated. They can vouch for your club, speak out against administrative aggression towards students, and provide an argument that could win over their colleges.

Some very supportive faculty members I have met while at ASU include history professor Donald Critchlow (he was also a very vocal protestor at his time at ASU) and Kristen Gilger at the Walter Cronkite School of journalism.

But keep in mind, this isn’t just about using a faculty member only when you need help. Having a mentoring relationship where they support your ideas is far more valuable. These are also people to use as club advisers and speakers at meetings.

5. Stage Creative Ways to Illustrate Points

Let’s be real– no one is going to go to a lecture on Constitutional Rights, even if there are free cookies. In order to get students to really care that their rights have been assaulted on, give them real-life examples with a creative twist. For example, last year Society for Professional Journalists on the downtown campus provided free pizza to students who would “sign away” their first amendment rights. Once given the pizza, students were ordered to cover up logos on their shirts, yelled at for talking to others, and forced to give up their slices for no given reasons. I can guarantee you students who went through this demonstration became more aware of free speech rights than those who listened to a lecture on it. Don’t be afraid to break out and try new ideas! Maybe stage a re-en action of a student’s dorm room being searched, or to decorate the “Speech Zone” on campus with free speech posters, and encourage other students to do the same. The more people you involve, the better!

And now readers, I leave you with this song to pump up the freedom defending. Keep up the good work!

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A Tale of Two Student Journalists: A Look at the Freedom of College Student Papers.

ASU student paper, The State Press. Photo from Downtowndevil.com

ASU student paper, The State Press. Photo from Downtowndevil.com

As a journalism student, there isn’t an amendment I know as well–nor one that I’m more passionate about–than the first amendment. It encompasses several areas: religion, speech, right to assembly,  the right to petition, and the press. Today, it would be completely unconstitutional and  cause public uproar if the government tried to censor a newspaper solely based upon what they reported. But this standard is not held for students, as often it is acceptable for the administration to censor what the student publication is saying. In these two examples of student editor-in-chiefs Annie and Andrew, colleges can respond differently to a student press–either good or bad.

Annie Yu, editor-in-chief for APU's newspaper

Annie Yu, editor-in-chief for APU’s newspaper Photo from Annie Yu.

Annie Yu is the Editor-in-Chief of her newspaper The Clause at Azusa Pacific University. While the administration has to keep a particular image and reputation as a Christian University, Yu said that her experience as a student journalist has been positive there.

“I think they do a good job of balancing a good image but also listening to their students in a gracious way,” she said, “They have rarely told us that we couldn’t print anything.”

Yu even covered a story earlier this year on a professor coming out as transgender–a big shock for a small Christian school.  But the administration didn’t infringe upon, or try to stop the story.

“I had people from both sides telling me how fair my coverage was, like both supporters of the professor and the administration,” said Yu.

Yu said the only time when the administration did not allow the paper to publish anything, was after the school was involved in an online  confession page. Students vent their confessions anonymously on a website called postsecret.com. Some of the secrets posted began to cause drama and social issues for the school. The founder of the postsecret page for APU came out and wrote a letter to the paper explaining why she started it, but the administration did not allow The Clause to publish it, or talk about the issue any further.

“People said some pretty serious and awful things on that post secret, and I think they didn’t want to draw any attention to it,” said Yu, “Christian school, you know?”

Andrew Phillips had difficulty with his school censoring his paper. Photo from Phillips

Andrew Phillips had difficulty with his school censoring his paper. Photo from Phillips

While Yu’s University has generally been supportive of the paper and student media, Andrew Phillips, recent graduate of Simpson University, said his school was not.

“My school was  absolutely terrible about  censoring us,” said Phillips,  “We weren’t even allowed to have a website or social media accounts, certain editorials would infuriate them….I could seriously go on and on.”

Phillips also attended a small Christian university, but unlike Yu’s account of Azusa, he says they took advantage of their power.

“Because they were a Christian university they funded the paper, and had complete control over us. Our only advantage was that we [ the newspaper staff]  were the only ones who saw the paper before it was published,” said Phillips.

Phillips said some of his stories were very upsetting to the school president.

“I wrote a few stories about the former dean of our seminary suing our school and the president was was upset that I called the school’s lawyer,” said Phillips, “But the worst was when I published a story about our student government looking to change the alcohol policy, and he [the president] personally went around campus to throw away every paper he could find.”

Even with the extremely pressured environment, Phillips says that he is happy that he went through those experiences in college.

“I think overall, it was a  great experience. Dealing with a hostile environment like that really set me up for a career as a White House reporter,” said Phillps who just finished an internship with the Washington Times  in Washington D.C., and is currently deciding between job offers, “There are a lot of reasons why I wish I had gone to a different school, but it didn’t bother me that they tried to censor me. I saw it more as a challenge than anything.”

Get out of my Room!!

A student's dorm at ASU.

A student’s dorm at ASU.

It’s something all prospective college students look forward to: Graduating high school, moving away from home, and living on their University campus  dorms. It’s a place to study, a place to decorate as your own, and for some, a place to party.

It’s also a place that can be, in some situations,  searched on a moments notice without a warrant.

This happened to ASU sophomore, Marcella Cartledge her freshman year living in the Barrett Honors College dorms. Cartledge, who is also a member of the Sun Devil track team, received a surprise one day after practice.

“My roommate told me that while I was gone, two men came over and asked to search our room for a routine health inspection,” said Cartledge, “It kind of bothered me knowing that strangers were going through and looking at my stuff.”

Cartledge said that while she understands Housing must make sure that student’s activities are within safety regulations to prevent people from getting hurt, she feels the search was improperly conducted. Nothing against policy was found in her room, but she still said she felt a bit violated.

“I would have liked to have a head-up that they were coming,” said Cartledge, “My room is still my room and my personal space, and I feel it would be respectful to at least given some type of notice.”

She said it would be better if housing decided to post a range of times students could expect for a check.

“That way, they can still have the element of surprise, and students could at least be aware of it happening,” said Cartledge.

Cartledge isn’t the only one this has happened to either. Each year, nearly every ASU student has their room inspected for safety violations such as candles, toasters, coffee makers, or excessive lights. ASU housing policy states that it has rights to conduct, “routine health, maintenance, and safety inspections each year.  The goal of these inspections is to ensure the health and safety of students and to gain voluntary compliance with set standards.”   The policy also states that alerts for searches are posted within 48 hours of the event. But in the case of Cartledge, she either did not see the posting, or they never put it up.

A dorm room search incident went viral on the internet last December.

University of Kentucky, Lexingburg (UKL) police department was in hot water after shoving past a student, entering his dorm room in search of suspected alcohol. No alcohol was found, and the police were caught on tape saying “there is no fourth amendment”

The history of campus police searching dorms has complicated legal issues. As stated from a legal document for NACUA lawyers, both the students and the campus police have rights in the situation.

College and university students have strong expectations of privacy about their dormitory rooms, which they perceive and courts have come to recognize as the student’s “home away from home. At the same time, however, college and university officials frequently have legitimate reasons to enter and search a student’s room–for example, to confirm that students are complying with health and safety rules prohibiting
pets, fire hazards, and the like, or when they have credible information that a student possesses a weapon or is dealing drugs from the room in violation of college policy or the law.
…………..
By no means is this a post trying to paint campus police in a bad light. The officers have to deal with a tremendous about of stress, and complications with boozed-up college kids. However, it is easy for them in some instances to react quickly in a situation and not go through proper procedure. If a student doesn’t read through the full housing policy, and know what their rights are regarding their rooms being searched, they can easily surrender them off of ignorance.
Do you have thoughts on this issue? Comment below!

Guess who I met?

Hey Polliterate Readers! If you read my previous post on Free Speech Zones, then you will remember a college student named Robert Van Tuinen who was prevented by college security for passing out Constitutions (on Constitution Day nonetheless) on campus.

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Me and Robert Van Tuinen mentioned in my previous post.

This Saturday, Arizona State Unversity’s Students for Liberty club was hosting a regional conference, that Tuinen attended! We had a great time talking about his experience which landed him air-time on several news networks. He also wanted to give a shout out to Polliterate and to continue educating students on their rights protected by the Constitution. Awesome!

Students and concealed Weapons on Campus.

The 2nd amendment is one of the many sticky situations in Constitutional Law.

The phrase, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” has caused many head aches for legal scholars, judges and law-makers everywhere. Should we look at the term “militia” as an original intent to mean the general public? Or should it be considered what the term might mean today as the national guard? Does the wording of the amendment suggest background checks are unconstitutional? Should past convicts with history of violence be allowed to still purchase firearms? Should those who are mentally disabled be prohibited from gun ownership? If so, what then qualifies as being “mentally disabled”.

The problem is evident. Even worse, current events like the Sandy Hook Shooting has caused a strong divide between the pro and anti-gun groups, making the second amendment a massive area for debate.

But while the conversation about gun ownership usually revolves around adults, recently there has been talk about the rights of student gun rights while on their college campuses. Currently, in Austin, Texas,  home of the University of Texas , law-makers are pushing for a stature to allow their students to bring guns to campus on the basis of self-defense. Local Texas news station, KEYETV reported the story.

According to a graph created by anti-gun group, Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, states vary with second amendment attitudes.   Currently, two states—Utah and Colorado—allow concealed carry laws on college campuses by law. Six states—Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska,Minnesota, and North Carolina–allow concealed guns only in  locked cars in parking lots. Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas and Wisconsin, all allow concealed carry laws but schools can limit locations, and who carries. Finally from, the remaining 38, states 16 specifically prohibit guns on campus, while 22 (including Arizona) allow schools to make their own decisions.

Arizona State University has chosen to opt-out of allowing guns on campus, standing in University housing handbook

The university Student Code of Conduct prohibits explosives (including fireworks), firearms, black or smokeless powder ammunition, and/or weapons of any type in the residence halls, resident rooms, or campus grounds. Possession of firearms, weapons, and/or ammunition in the residence halls could be grounds for the immediate termination of the Residence Hall License Agreement.

Because this issue is so polarizing, I have split the two camps into separate sections with their arguments…allowing you to make the decision.

PRO STUDENT GUN  ARGUMENTS 

  1. Those who support student gun rights on campus, argue that less guns means less crime.  According to pro-gun and student run organization, Students for Concealed Carry, college campuses aren’t sheltered nor particularly safe areas.  This graph on their website, (below) shows the crime by type through the years 2005-2007. Assault and Rape are some of the most common.  Students for Concealed Carry argue allowing students to carry guns on campus would lower these statistics by promoting  self-defense, especially for college women.
  2. Prevention. Advocates also argue in addition to creating safer campuses, it would also deter gun crimes in the future.  The Virginia Tech shooter might have not gone on his deadly spree if he knew several other armed students could immediately stop him. A young woman walking back from campus at night who could not physically over come a rapist, would be able to defend herself with a gun—causing any sexual criminal to think twice.
  3. Finally, those of argue there is no evidence that allowing guns has caused any problems in the past with schools who do allow concealed carry:

“After allowing concealed carry on campus for a combined total of one hundred semesters, none of these twelve schools has seen a single resulting incident of gun violence (including threats and suicides), a single gun accident, or a single gun theft”

Additionally, they argue, studies have shown that students who carry guns won’t dangerously “snap”. They cite studies done by University of Maryland senior research scientist John Lott, University of Georgia professor, David Mustard, and various state agencies, that show that concealed handgun license holders are 5 times less likely than non-license holders to commit violent crimes.

ANTI STUDENT GUN ARGUMENTS

  1. Those who oppose guns on college campuses argue that a college environment is very different than one in the real world. Campaign to  Keep Guns Off Campus sites in a study called “Why our campuses are safer without guns” that there are many factors which make Universities vulnerable situations. Students are often in very structured areas, like a dorm or a class room, and are somewhat sheltered to many crimes upon campus. College students also notoriously misuse alcohol through binge drinking, creating a deadly combination if  guns were thrown into the equation.
  2. Second, they argue campuses are already protected by campus police, who have been thoroughly trained in handling guns. Those who have a concealed carry license don’t necessarily have to go through the process of safety training, and therefore, could not understand how to handle the gun properly, hurting themselves and others.
  3. campus police

    ASU campus police, State Press Online

  4. College campuses are often equipped with other safety mechanisms to keep their students safe. These measures include safety hotlines, campus police stations, emergency polls, and security cameras to ensure crimes are kept low, and students safe.

What do you think? Should colleges allow their students to carry guns on campus? Comment below!

Are Free Speech Zones anything but Free Speech?

One previous Polliterate  post was on Constitution day, and ways to celebrate our nation’s founding document. Hopefully, you took advantage of the fun events occurring in the Phoenix area, or heard some guest speakers talk about the rights we take advantage of nearly every day—Rights that one community college in California does not seem to think exist for  students.

On that September 20th morning, Robert Van Tuinen was approached by a Modesto Junior College security guard, who told him to immediately stop passing out Constitutions.

This all occurring during Constitution day. Oh the irony.

Shown in the video, Tuinen is told that there is a “time and place” for such events, and if he wanted to pass out pocket Constitutions, he needed to do so in the college’s “Free Speech Zone”–a block of concrete located on the campus to fit speakers or protesters.

Tuinen recorded the confrontation by the campus security guard and administrator, and posted it on Youtube. It went viral among the web, and was picked up by several news organizations including the Daily Caller, Fox News, and The Huffington Post

He later tweeted out the story published on The Daily Caller on his tweeter feed.

Another episode regarding these zones occurred earlier in September when student Chris Morbitzer wanted to gather signatures for a ballot initiative for right to work laws, which his organization, Young Americans for Liberty, were participating.

His request was denied, and followed with a threat by the school that if he or his group were caught collecting signatures from outside the Free Speech Zone, they would be arrested by campus security.

Morbitzer was offended that the school would restrict his right to speech guaranteed in the first amendment. And in such a way that he would be treated more like a criminal then a student and concerned citizen.

He sued the University of Cincinnati and won in court as they struck down the zone as being unconstitutional.

Free Speech Zones–also known as protest zones– have been around on college campuses since the Vietnam War Era. Students who wished to voice their opinion of the war could do so, but only a tightly restricted areas. Sometimes this is a designated stage, other times, it is a grass lawn. Often, these areas must be booked in advance to the administration, and given limited time of use.

The purpose is to control student speech to a single area where it can be contained.

California School Free Speech Zone. Photo by David J Hacker

California School Free Speech Zone. Photo by David J Hacker

Proponents argue that it does not violate freedom of speech because it is merely censoring where the speech or protest is occurring, not the content of what they are saying or doing.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (or FIRE) complied an data base of colleges  across the nation, and found 1 of 6 use Free Speech Zones.

No Arizona University has this policy according to the study.

As an Arizona State University student, I have never felt any political display across campus has effected my learning.  With several petitions, displays, or protests, I believe my education has been promoted, not infringed upon. Putting this speech in a Zone would only regulate these free flow of ideas.
What do you think? Are Free Speech Zones a good idea? Write your thoughts down in the comments below.