Students fight for constitutional rights

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Students fight for constitutional rights

Kelly Wynne, Editor-In-Chief

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The college’s freedom of speech codes may be changing in the foreseeable future, according to Acting Interim President Joseph Collins. Joe Enders, founder of the Campus Libertarians, has been working with Collins in order to recreate the school’s protocol on distributing club materials.

It was Sept. 18, 2015, the day after Constitution Day, when Enders and club members were told to stop handing out fliers by campus police. Enders was told he must gain permission from Student Life in order to continue distributing printed materials. Now, Enders and club members are soliciting support from College of DuPage administration to make it easier for clubs to express their First Amendment rights on campus.

Current campus rules, through Student Life, restrict campus clubs and organizations from handing out fliers anywhere on school property. Clubs can post fliers and handouts on bulletin boards around campus without permission, with the exception of the board run by Student Life. Enders and club members did not follow up with Student Life after the confrontation.

Outside organizations can request permission to hand out fliers through a “Distribution of Printed Materials” application, which if accepted, will provide the organization with a table on campus. According to Student Life, these rules are obeyed more often than not.

Enders believes the restrictions are a direct violation to the First Amendment rights of COD students. “We were just handing out fliers that said ‘America Is a Freedom Of Speech Zone’ from Turning Point,” said Enders. “Turning Point is a non-profit organization, so by no means are they able to tell me I can’t hand out fliers from a non-profit. It was not legally solicited.”

Vice President of the Campus Libertarians Pat Wool, agrees. “If the current freedom of speech policy doesn’t allow groups to stand outside in a big area and hand out fliers, then that’s a problem,” said Wool. “Any club or any student should be able to express their beliefs wherever they choose. Students shouldn’t be punished for handing pamphlets out that reflect their club’s opinion. It doesn’t matter what kind of speech you’re exemplifying. It should be anything you want to.”

Enders and Wool have taken to the COD board of trustees and members of administration in order to encourage a campus-wide change. They are proposing open tabling for all students with reservations and the ability to distribute materials, not categorized as solicitation, freely.

“I want a complete revamp of our free speech code here to one that reflects the Constitution to perfection,” said Enders. “Our current free speech policy is gone. The old one, yes, was unconstitutional. But as of right now our revised policy is going through the Shared Governance Committee, and will then be voted upon by the board. However, if we have 3 board members refusing to show up for work, a vote can’t happen, and free speech will be held hostage by them.”

Enders had met with former Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton, before her resignation, as well as Acting Interim President Joseph Collins about the pending change.

“Joe Collins sounded as if he was on board with these revisions, however, I’ve heard nothing from him nor the Shared Governance Committee in over a month so I’ve been skeptical about his seriousness on the issue,” said Enders. “Kathy was 100 percent in favor of revising the policy and willing to vote yes on it from my impression, but this was before her resignation.”

Collins sees the change in protocol happening in the near future. “We take our students’ rights, including the right to free speech, very seriously at College of DuPage,” said Collins. “Joe Enders and his attorney visited with us at a Shared Governance Council meeting in December, and [at the Feb. 3 meeting] we will continue the process of revising our procedures to ensure these rights are protected. I expect we will have our newly revised procedure ready for implementation within a couple weeks.”

Enders has looked into legal representation and may use outside resources if the current board is not willing to pass the pending changes.

Both Wool and Enders encourage students to use their group’s experience as an example. “I feel that we should pay attention more as students and not be afraid to speak up when [students] think their rights are violated, respectfully of course. We need to find the discrepancies and mend them. That’s for sure,” said Enders.

You can visit Enders, Wool and other club members at the Campus Libertarian’s table near Starbucks on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10-1:30.

 

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