Can Community Colleges Limit Your Right to Free Speech?
While there have been several cases brought against community colleges, Los Angeles Community College (LACC), located in California, has garnered the most controversial attention. As the Los Angeles Times reports, LACC student Jonathan Lopez filed a lawsuit against the college after his professor allegedly did not allow Lopez to complete his prepared speech on Proposition 8. According to court documents, Lopez asserts that the professor asked him to shorten his presentation due to the professor's own beliefs regarding gay marriage. As the LA Times specifically recounts, “The student said that the professor cut his presentation short, called him a 'fascist bastard' and told him to 'ask God' for his grade.”
Despite the shocking words, Lopez's professor was technically abiding by the sexual harassment policy set forth by LACC. Lopez's professor believed that the student's anti-gay marriage presentation was sexually offensive, and subsequently, by banning Lopez from giving the speech, the professor was indeed adhering to the subjective nature of the sexual harassment school policy.
Fighting for Free Speech
In June of 2009, the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), a multi-facility institution with campuses located throughout Pittsburgh, gained media attention after a CCAC student was allegedly denied rights to free speech. The student posted fliers on campus inviting supporters to join the local chapter of “Students for Concealed Carry on Campus,” which is part of a larger national organization opposed to policies that prohibit handguns on campuses across the country. CCAC acted by banning the fliers, destroying all of the copies, and threatening that it would not tolerate any further “academic misconduct.”
While the student asserts that her rights to free speech were denied, CCAC supporters argue that the fliers were prohibited because the student responsible for posting the material failed to receive appropriate permission. As CCAC leaders explain, all posted fliers must first be approved by the campus' Office of Student Life. Furthermore, according to a leader of the school, “'CCAC has not placed and will not place any unlawful restrictions on (students') freedom of association," Moreover, all students must “'be required to follow the appropriate CCAC policy and procedures like other students."