Free speech is a constitutional right. But the South Orange County Community College District has an unfortunate history of trying to limit how, where and when students can speak.
The district that operates Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College in effect wants students to raise their hands and ask to be recognized before speaking in settings outside the classroom on campus. A court this month struck down four provisions in the recently modified district policy governing when and where students can gather, the use of public address systems and access to buildings on campus.
The district knows it is heading down the wrong path because it now has lost two court challenges. The most recent rejection came March 18 when U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins sided with students who went to court to challenge district restrictions. Collins in 1999 sank another version of the policy because it wrongly limited the "time, place and manner of speech." The district also withdrew its policy on two other occasions before a judge could rule.
The district also has had its knuckles rapped for trying to rein in free speech by faculty members. Irvine Valley College professor Roy Bauer in August won another round in a long-running court fight sparked by a faculty newsletter that takes district officials to task. The court ruled that district officials acted unconstitutionally by reprimanding Bauer for the content in his newsletters.