A student at Stanford University scored another victory for free speech on college campuses after fighting back against attempts by campus administrators to silence his attempts to bring a different point of view to the campus debate on illegal immigration.
After witnessing hundreds of fliers posted throughout Stanford’s campus dormitories informing students of a hotline they could call to report the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on campus, Isaac Kipust decided to bring a new perspective to the illegal immigration debate. He responded by posting satirical posters that asked students to “protect community criminals” by calling a hotline to “report legitimate law enforcement activity.”
The next day, Kimball discovered his posters had been removed, in an apparent violation of Stanford’s policies on free speech and free expression. After speaking with the residential fellows of his dormitory hall, Kimball learned that the fliers had been removed because “three students felt unsafe and hurt” by their presence.
Later that day, Kimball met with the three students whom his posters had offended, along with a representative of Residential Education and the Stanford Associate Dean of Students Dr. Alejandro M. Martinez, who is also in charge of Stanford’s policies on “Acts of Intolerance.” The group informed Kimball that his fliers construed “hate speech” since they were interpreted as satirizing a flier protecting an identity group, which implied that illegal immigrants are a protected identity group on Stanford’s campus.
Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the meeting, according to Kimball, was when he was told that because his fliers had negatively impacted the three students, all of whom cried during the meeting, he would not be allowed to put the fliers back up.
“The fact that my fliers were censored because they made students cry stunned me,” wrote Kimball. “Emotions are too subjective a criterion for some arguments to be accepted and others denied.”
Not willing to back down, Kimball enlisted the help of a professor, Michael McConnell, who is in charge of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. According to McConnell, the student’s ability to post such fliers was clearly within Kimball’s rights to free speech, because “at Stanford, lawful speech cannot be restrained or suppressed merely because it is offensive to others.”
After meeting with the lead Residence Dean Lisa De La Cruz-Caldera, Stanford eventually chose to respect their own free speech policy, a victory for Kimball and all students on the Stanford campus. The dean admitted to Kimball that her staff had made the wrong decision in choosing to remove his fliers, even going as far as to state “that no flier containing speech protected by the First Amendment should ever be removed for its content.”
John Patrick (@john_pat_rick) is a graduate of Canisius College and Georgia Southern University. He interned for Red Alert Politics during the summer of 2012 and has continued to contribute regularly.