Officials at George Mason University in Virginia blocked YAF activists from hanging up posters advertising the Young Americans for Freedom chapter, suggesting instead that they only exercise their First Amendment rights in a designated “free speech area” on campus.
More than 120 Young Americans for Freedom activists took to the GMU campus on Thursday, postering activism flyers as part of YAF’s Chapter Training Seminar.
One group, led by Young America’s Foundation staffer Kevin McMahon, was reported to the police by an unknown campus-goer.
“Did you get permission from the university to put signs up?” A GMU police officer asked McMahon.
McMahon responded that they did not get explicit permission, given that the YAF activists were simply advertising a student organization and following known policies.
“Your option is the freedom of speech area,” the police officer said. “There is a free speech area…other than that you cannot do this anywhere else.”
Police officers then suggested McMahon could be charged as a result of his First Amendment activity on behalf of GMU’s YAF chapter.
“When you hang stuff up and it blows down–where does it go? The floor–that’s littering,” he said. “You could be charged with that.”
According to the George Mason University website, the schools claims to have a commitment to free speech. “All members of the George Mason University community enjoy the right to freedom of speech and expression,” the website states. “Individuals are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and demonstrate as a natural platform for intellectual engagement.”
There was no mention of any “free speech area” on George Mason University’s website.
The postering policy on GMU’s website states that flyers posted in the Student Center must be approved by the school. YAF was not postering in the Student Center, but other public buildings around campus. The website’s policies did not state any restriction or approval process for posters not hung in the Student Center.
Freedom of expression cannot be limited to the preferences and whims of university administrators. Conservatives are constantly targeted for participating in their constitutional rights to free speech while universities hide behind silly “free speech zone” laws. Colleges are meant to be the marketplace of ideas but George Mason University appears to be impeding intellectually diverse opportunities for its students.
Young America’s Foundation is closely monitoring the ongoing situation.