GMU claims 'entire campus' is a 'free speech zone.' Conservatives beg to differ after police run-in.
- Members of Young Americans for Freedom claim they were told by GMU police to move their recruitment operation to a “free speech area.”
- GMU police claim that no such incident occurred and that there is no such area on campus.
Conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom is alleging that George Mason University infringed upon its free expression rights while the group attempted to recruit on the Virginia campus.
“Today while training some YAFers how to promote their club and spread conservative ideas on their campuses, it took all of FIVE MINUTES for GMU staff to call the police. For posting flyers. Turns out I wasn’t in the properly designated ‘free speech zone,’” tweeted YAF program assistant Kevin McMahon.
McMahon also tweeted photos of the flyers the group was distributing, some of which were directly advocating for free speech rights.
According to a YAF press release, police approached McMahon asking if he had permission to put signs up on campus. Because McMahon said that he had not gotten prior permission, the police told him he would have to move to a “free speech area.”
“Somebody needs to tell these clowns that AMERICA is the free speech zone,” Spencer Klavan of the Claremont Institute commented.
YAF points out that there is no mention of a free speech area on the GMU website, quoting the school’s claim that “all members of the George Mason University community enjoy the right to freedom of speech and expression,” and that "individuals are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and demonstrate as a natural platform for intellectual engagement.”
Chief of Police and Assistant Vice President at GMU Carl Rowan Jr. denied YAF’s allegations, telling Campus Reform that “George Mason University does not have free speech zones. The entire campus is a free speech zone.”
“The George Mason University Police department did not infringe on anyone’s right to free speech,” Rowan said.
“Mason police were called after receiving a report from an employee that 30-40 people were inside a campus building posting flyers without going through the university procedure for approval,” Rowan said, adding that students are free to hand out flyers as long as they are not blocking sidewalks or entrances.”
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