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Student Activists Told to Remove Table from Penn State 'Free Speech Zone'

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posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:30 AM
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Student Activists Told to Remove Table from Penn State 'Free Speech Zone'

Several Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) Penn State student activists were tabling for their organization in celebration of Constitution Day on Wednesday.

Jolie Davis, chair of her YAF Chapter, had copies of the Constitution as well as literature at the table informing students of Penn State's "speech code" policies. On the 8,500 acres of Penn State, there are only 12 small spaces designated as "Free Speech Zones" on campus. The organization's table, located outside of the Hetzel Union Building (HUB), had a poster that read "Free Speech Banned at Penn State."

After an hour or so of tabling, the YAF table was approached by campus security personnel, who told Jolie to take the table down. Jolie pressed the official with questions, asking why she had to take down her table. The campus security officer replied, "You can't have a table but you can pass out flyers." It is important to note that the area in which Davis was tabling was a "designated free speech zone."

Davis and other activists decided to film the whole encounter. Once the official realized he was being recorded, he said, "It's not going to help your cause to put this on video." The official brought two more people from the college with him, one of them from Student Affairs, where they explained to Davis that she needed to reserve the space. She asked why she would have to reserve the space since it is a "designated free speech zone." The college representatives told her she could go inside and discuss the policy. However, when she did, the officials hurried away.

Davis and other YAF activists have tabled at this exact location before; the only difference this time was now her organization was highlighting Penn State's ridiculous speech code policies. Davis said, "At Penn State not all free speech is created equal."

Apparently, it isn't enough to restrict students' free speech rights on campus because now students' rights are restricted even in designated free speech zones.


Now I am no fan of "Free Speech Zones" and believe they are indeed, and ought to be ruled, unconstitutional on their face. Moreover, they stifle free speech due to the fact it limits the market place of ideas down to, in my opinion, selective and strategically placed pockets of ideas designed to quell dissenting opinion by restricting that marketplace from the mass of the population. However, that said, while the "free speech zones" are in fact, in my opinion, banning free speech as YAF expresses and I share, they failed to understand an actual legitimate campus policy regarding tabeling as shown in the following.
The "free speech zones" are designated as follows in Policy AD51 USE OF OUTDOOR AREAS FOR EXPRESSIVE ACTIVITIES:

LOCATIONS FOR EXPRESSIVE ACTIVITY:
Based upon careful study, the following areas of the University Park Campus have been designated as areas suitable for expressive activity:
Old Main front patio
Allen Street Gate Plaza
Willard Building patio area between Willard and Obelisk
Palmer Art Museum Plaza
Northwest corner of Shortlidge Rd. and College Avenue
Fisher Plaza
IST Plaza
Pattee Library Mall entrance plaza
HUB-Robeson - Rear sidewalk pad (not the Patio)
HUB-Robeson - Lawn
Osmond Fountain Area (after 5pm)
Area under the Willaman Gateway to the Life Sciences

The same policy also states:

This policy is applicable to University students, faculty, staff and others who wish to engage in speaking, literature distribution, poster or sign displays, petitioning and similar noncommercial activities (generally referred to as “expressive activity”) at outdoor locations on University property. Use of University buildings and indoor facilities is addressed in other University policies. University grounds and buildings are reserved for use by students, faculty and staff, except as otherwise permitted by policies of the University. Questions concerning this policy should be directed to the Event Management Office, 125D HUB-Robeson Center.

In which it lays out certain and specific rules governing use of the space, the last of which states:

Tables must be staffed by the sponsoring organization and or group and may be used only in those areas designated for expressive activity. The use of tables must be stipulated at the time of reservation. The name of the sponsoring organization or group must be displayed at the table.

This policy is further elaborated in Penn State's Policies and Rules for Recognized Student Organizations (Note: Word Document):

Recognized student organizations may reserve an information table in locations designated by the University. The organization must reserve the table location in advance of its intended use. Reservations for spaces will be made in order of submission. Specific numbers and locations for tables are designated. Other individuals or organizations may not reserve a table except as otherwise authorized by the University. No organization other than the reserving organization may use the table.

This is not Penn States first brush with free speech either:
Speech Code of the Month: Pennsylvania State University

First, Penn State has already had to settle one lawsuit regarding several speech codes it used to maintain (it revised those policies as part of the settlement). Second, Penn State is a public university in the Third Circuit, where there are now two decisions clearly establishing the unconstitutionality of campus speech codes. ...
*****
In light of all this, Penn State is playing with fire (no pun intended??) by maintaining a policy that so clearly violates what the Third Circuit has said—on multiple occasions—about the extent to which schools may restrict student speech in the name of preventing harassment. For this reason, Penn State is our September 2008 Speech Code of the Month

Pennsylvania State University – University Park
They even at one point, in 2006, did away with "free speech zones" as:

Penn State students and activists have called them, disparagingly, the "free-speech zones," the spots on campus that the administration designated for big political rallies and demonstrations.

The zones, established under policy AD 51, have been in place seven years.

But in a legal agreement reached this summer, Penn State has quietly eased up on the controversial rule.

The new policy bringing "free speech zones" was established in 2008, two years after they got rid of them.

As noted, I do not like "free speech zones" but I do think YAF should have done their homework and avoided this mess. Policies for tabeling and reservation are for ensuring equal opportunity in utilizing a space, one still can express themselves and lend information without a reservation. If they were to defy policy, they ought to have been well outside of "the zone" to begin with.




posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:38 AM
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a reply to: AllSourceIntel

Free speech limited to certain places, and times, with consequences imposed on violators of the "rules" on such matters, is not free speech at all.

A land which respects free speech, accepts that freedom is not limited to any geographical location, any time of day or night, or by whether or not those who are speaking happen to have furniture with them at the time.
edit on 18-9-2014 by TrueBrit because: grammatical error removal.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:40 AM
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a reply to: AllSourceIntel

This is really funny... The girl says her rights are being violated lol. It is campus property!!! If they say remove the table then remove it.

Its a free speech zone, not a free put crap here zone.

I am all for people defending thier rights and standing up for them, but here I think refusing to just remove the table is a touch on the side of absurd.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:43 AM
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a reply to: TrueBrit


Good point, however this is an institution of learning. I can see the wisdom in designating certain areas as "free speech zones" to avoid disturbing individuals who could give a crap less about your "cause", do not wish to hear your babbling and just wish to learn.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:43 AM
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a reply to: AllSourceIntel

They were asked to remove the table, not leave the area.
It sounds like they are trying to use the 'table' to make a bigger statement now.

Penn State, though I've never been to that particular campus, is usually pretty progressive when it comes to these things. This is making their whole cause look petty and juvenile now.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:45 AM
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a reply to: TrueBrit



A land which respects free speech, accepts that freedom is not limited to any geographical location, any time of day or night, or by whether or not those who are speaking happen to have furniture with them at the time.


Hear, hear!

All the guidelines and rules are designed to:

1. Make it a total headache to assert your right to free speech in these "free speech" zones
2. Stop the students by creating situations like this because they didn't research all the guidelines and rules well enough



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:47 AM
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a reply to: AnteBellum
Yeah, precisely, as a result, another good cause is going to have a bad name because someone made the wrong argument on a rightful cause. That is also how good court cases get lost.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:49 AM
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a reply to: TrueBrit
Yes and exactly, I am with you except the issue was and is they wanted them to remove the table while still letting them speak ... although in a "free speech zone" which is the true and real issue at hand, not that stupid table which is now the focus.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:50 AM
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a reply to: halfpint0701

Really??? Or could it be just to limit the amount of areas were folks can bring a bull horn and spout off about whatever atrocity they feel has wronged them in some way.

These are clearly area's set aside for the activist crowd at the school....which IMO is very generous.

The university has given students a place to engage in extra-curricular activities. Good for them!



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:51 AM
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She didn't reserve the space for a table. So move.
What's wrong with that?



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:51 AM
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a reply to: AtcGod
It is like ATS or any other forum or venue for one to speak ... they can speak their mind in any place because you don't have to listen or be present. If one is speaking something you do not like or believe, you walk away, sit another location, or keep walking from point a to b.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 09:55 AM
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originally posted by: AllSourceIntel
a reply to: AtcGod
It is like ATS or any other forum or venue for one to speak ... they can speak their mind in any place because you don't have to listen or be present. If one is speaking something you do not like or believe, you walk away, sit another location, or keep walking from point a to b.


And ATS has rules that you must follow to use the forum.

If you break the rules you get warned, posts get removed and you eventually get banned.

Posts also get moved for being in the wrong area...lol
edit on 18-9-2014 by AtcGod because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 10:01 AM
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originally posted by: AtcGod

originally posted by: AllSourceIntel
a reply to: AtcGod
It is like ATS or any other forum or venue for one to speak ... they can speak their mind in any place because you don't have to listen or be present. If one is speaking something you do not like or believe, you walk away, sit another location, or keep walking from point a to b.


And ATS has rules that you must follow to use the forum.

If you break the rules you get warned, posts get removed and you eventually get banned.

Posts also get moved for being in the wrong area...lol

Correct, but it is not the same. Posts being moved for being in the wrong area are a matter of organization, posts removed for being off-topic are a matter of staying on task. Rules and terms and conditions are more about keeping the place civil and respectable. Its a matter of keeping the market place of ideas from going off in tangents and being chaos, it's about organizing it and keeping topics on topic.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 10:07 AM
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a reply to: AtcGod

I do not buy it.

Universities have been long associated with political debate, many of them actually having debating teams of their own, and most of them offer courses in "political science" (two words which belong in one sentence, about as much as Ghandi and Hitler belong at the same dinner table in the afterlife), political history, and the like.

It is not at all unusual, or for that matter contextually inappropriate therefore, that a university occasionally become a forum for discourse about political activism, and the meaning and origin of a document as important as the constitution of the United States of America, arguably one of the most important documents, of its kind to be found anywhere on the planet.

It is a mark of staggering ignorance for any person to announce blithely, that they do not want to hear about politics, or that they do not give a crap about it. Everything which affects a persons life in a nation, every single thing, comes down to politics. From the cost of running an automobile, to the failures of any system designed to allow a person access to medical treatment. There is no facet of living in a democracy, which cannot be said to comprise an element which is acted upon by the direction of political discourse in a country.

Universities have a duty to their students, and indeed to the country in which they happen to be at the time, to promote in their students a desire to utilise their rights, and understand what they are.

Whether everyone enjoys the process is largely irrelevant.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 10:08 AM
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a reply to: AllSourceIntel

It's private property and they have no right to set up shop any time they feel like it. On any college campus you need to let them know you're going to be doing something like this or they will shut you down.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 10:09 AM
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originally posted by: halfpint0701
a reply to: TrueBrit



A land which respects free speech, accepts that freedom is not limited to any geographical location, any time of day or night, or by whether or not those who are speaking happen to have furniture with them at the time.


Hear, hear!

All the guidelines and rules are designed to:

1. Make it a total headache to assert your right to free speech in these "free speech" zones
2. Stop the students by creating situations like this because they didn't research all the guidelines and rules well enough


I don't think the school had/has a sinister motive in their policy, rather, I think they are incorrectly trying to have some organization to how expression is conducted on their campus. While YAF should have done their homework and known how to register their table/expression, they should have also already have understood this because if they set up a table for recruiting or fund raising, which I am sure they have done hundreds to thousands of times before, they have to do the same thing.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 10:09 AM
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originally posted by: AllSourceIntel

originally posted by: AtcGod

originally posted by: AllSourceIntel
a reply to: AtcGod
It is like ATS or any other forum or venue for one to speak ... they can speak their mind in any place because you don't have to listen or be present. If one is speaking something you do not like or believe, you walk away, sit another location, or keep walking from point a to b.


And ATS has rules that you must follow to use the forum.

If you break the rules you get warned, posts get removed and you eventually get banned.

Posts also get moved for being in the wrong area...lol

Correct, but it is not the same. Posts being moved for being in the wrong area are a matter of organization, posts removed for being off-topic are a matter of staying on task. Rules and terms and conditions are more about keeping the place civil and respectable. Its a matter of keeping the market place of ideas from going off in tangents and being chaos, it's about organizing it and keeping topics on topic.


I dont really see how the video above is any different. The staff seemed very civil and respectable about there request....I cant say as much for the responses from the folks behind the table.

No one was suppressing information, just removal of the table from the area which again is well within the rights of the organization and in no way hinder's anyones ability to speak thier minds.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 10:10 AM
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a reply to: AllSourceIntel

The U.S. Constitution is a farce. It's only function is to placate and pacify the masses making them think they have "rights". They don't. Any time it's supposed effects are tested, we're told how it magically does not apply in this or that circumstance. Smarten up, people. You've been tricked.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 10:11 AM
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a reply to: AtcGod
Yes, I agree with you, as was stated in the OP. I take issue with "free speech zones" in general, but shared your sentiments in my OP for the same reasons.



posted on Sep, 18 2014 @ 10:15 AM
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originally posted by: TrueBrit
a reply to: AtcGod

I do not buy it.

Universities have been long associated with political debate, many of them actually having debating teams of their own, and most of them offer courses in "political science" (two words which belong in one sentence, about as much as Ghandi and Hitler belong at the same dinner table in the afterlife), political history, and the like.

It is not at all unusual, or for that matter contextually inappropriate therefore, that a university occasionally become a forum for discourse about political activism, and the meaning and origin of a document as important as the constitution of the United States of America, arguably one of the most important documents, of its kind to be found anywhere on the planet.

It is a mark of staggering ignorance for any person to announce blithely, that they do not want to hear about politics, or that they do not give a crap about it. Everything which affects a persons life in a nation, every single thing, comes down to politics. From the cost of running an automobile, to the failures of any system designed to allow a person access to medical treatment. There is no facet of living in a democracy, which cannot be said to comprise an element which is acted upon by the direction of political discourse in a country.

Universities have a duty to their students, and indeed to the country in which they happen to be at the time, to promote in their students a desire to utilise their rights, and understand what they are.

Whether everyone enjoys the process is largely irrelevant.



Policies are put into place at any number of organizations for the purpose of good order and discipline. What a private organization decides are the rules are that organizations business.

It is everyone's right to decide what they allow themselves to be exposed to and what they are interested in. That is a freedom as well i should think. So I dont see how choosing to ignore politics, for whatever reason, would be in any way a display of ignorance.

Universities have a duty to deliver quality education that the student has paid for. To ensure they do that, there must be rules in place to facilitate an environment that allows for that to take place unimpeded.



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