The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) has ordered a student to cease her efforts to organize a student group supporting gun rights, and labeled those efforts “academic misconduct”:
FIRE Press Release
PITTSBURGH, May 27, 2009—A student who wants to form a gun-rights group at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) has been threatened with disciplinary action for her efforts. Student Christine Brashier has turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help after reporting that administrators banned her informational pamphlets, ordered her to destroy all copies of them, and told her that further “academic misconduct” would not be tolerated. . .
In April, CCAC student Christine Brashier created pamphlets to distribute to her classmates encouraging them to join her in forming a chapter of the national Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) organization at CCAC. The handbill states that the group “supports the legalization of concealed carry by licensed individuals on college campuses.” She personally distributed copies of the flyer, which identified her as a “Campus Leader” of the effort to start the chapter.
On April 24, Jean Snider, Student Development Specialist at CCAC’s Allegheny Campus, summoned Brashier to a meeting that day with Snider and Yvonne Burns, Dean of Student Development. According to Brashier, the deans told Brashier that passing out her non-commercial pamphlets was prohibited as “solicitation.” They told Brashier that trying to “sell” other students on the idea of the organization was prohibited.
CCAC also told Brashier that the college must pre-approve any distribution of literature to fellow students, and that pamphlets like hers would not be approved, even insisting that Brashier destroy all copies of her pamphlet. . .
When Brashier stated that she wanted to be able to discuss this policy freely on campus, she was told to stop doing so without the permission of the CCAC administration. Dean Burns reportedly said, “You may want to discuss this topic but the college does not, and you cannot make us.” Brashier was then told to cease all activities related to her involvement with SCCC at CCAC and that such “academic misconduct” would not be tolerated.
FIRE wrote CCAC President Alex Johnson on April 29 about these violations of Brashier’s First Amendment speech and association rights, pointing out that her free speech in no way constituted solicitation, that CCAC is obligated to permit students to distribute literature and may not ban it on the basis of viewpoint or content, and that if CCAC recognizes student organizations at all, it must recognize an organization that supports concealed carry on campus. FIRE requested a response by May 13, and CCAC responded only by promising a reply from either CCAC or the Allegheny County Solicitor’s office at some “reasonable” future time. Two weeks have passed since that promise, leaving the First Amendment in jeopardy at CCAC.
Suppressing free speech is disgraceful. And, at a public college, illegal as well. But even worse is threatening students with bogus charges of academic misconduct. Anyone who would do that has no business at all running an academic institution.