The Sunbird Conservatives, a student group, put out some
pro-McCain literature at a recruiting table at Fresno Pacific University a week
Seemed innocent enough. The conservatives weren�t harassing
anyone, nor were they blocking any sidewalks.
But, administrators at this Christian-based college didn�t
like it. A dean told the students to either remove the McCain literature or to
agree to what he said was university policy to present both sides. The dean
correctly noted that the First Amendment applies only to government intrusion.
A private university, unlike a public university, may curtail any free speech
The students still argued �free speech rights.� Enter the
provost, head of all academic affairs at the university. She reaffirmed the
dean�s demands. One of the members shouted: �free speech� at her. They
challenged her, arguing that for a political organization to present both views
would defy common sense. The provost�s response, according to the conservative
Leadership Institute, was �Shut-up! I�m the provost. That is disrespectful.�
The students were warned if they didn�t comply with the
administrators� demands, they would be restricted in future activities on
The Founding Fathers wanted all views to be heard.
Channeling the revolutionary political philosophy of poet John Milton and judge
Lord Blackstone, they believed that mankind is rational, and if all the facts
were available, mankind would find the truth. That became the basis of the
Now, the twist is that the Fresno Pacific administrators
were wrong. Their own university actually believes that all views should be
allowed, as long as there is the opportunity for opposing views. It does not
require one organization to put out all views.
But, the Fresno Pacific administrators are also right. A
private university can do what it wants to do. It can encourage or restrict
free speech. Except in California.
California is the only state that extends the First
Amendment to private colleges, which as a matter of educational philosophy
should encourage, not restrict, freedom of expression.
This means that the wishes of the Founding Fathers have been
extended into California, which many believe is a hellhole of liberalism.
Disregard the fact that some rabid conservatives actively try to restrict free
speech rights of others. Disregard the reality that conservatives who want to
keep government out of our lives used both the constitution and state law to
underscore their right to distribute political literature.
It�s time for all states, especially Pennsylvania
where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written, to
enact legislation to assure that the principles of the nation, and especially
the rights of free expression, are extended to all sectors, both public AND
Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University and president of the
Pennsylvania Press Club. He is senior author of the critically-acclaimed �The
Press and the State,� and author of ��Unacceptable�: The Federal Response to
Hurricane Katrina� (January 2006) and �Sinking the Ship of State: The
Presidency of George W. Bush� (November 2007), available through amazon.com. You
may contact Brasch at email@example.com
or through his website at: www.walterbrasch.com.